While they say there can be no definite stance taken by the county for wind power projects on private land, the Garrett County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to oppose the use of public land for that purpose.
“Based on the substantial outpouring of public opinion and my opinion,” Ernie Gregg, commissioner, said, “I feel that it is a wasteful use of recreational lands.”
The three commissioners agreed that the majority of public opinion was against the use of the land for this purpose, based upon the meeting at Garrett College on Jan. 30 and in Annapolis on Jan. 31.
Commission chairman Denny Glotfelty said that he feels that the state land needs to be preserved for future generations.
Fred Holliday added that while he has been a supporter of wind energy, he feels that putting the turbines on state land would be a loss to preservation of state forests. He added that he does not feel the current forest management and logging done on state forests would have the same effect as the turbines would on the same property.
Holliday said that he appreciated that the state not only held the public hearing at Garrett College, but brought in John Griffin, the secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, to hear comments at the meeting.
Jim Hinebaugh, Garrett County director of economic development, said he was glad to see that the commissioners waited to give their opinion until after both public hearings.
“They let the public process run its course,” Hinebaugh said. “They allowed the proponents to have their day in court, so to speak.”
Glotfelty said he felt this helped keep the county’s relationship with the governor and Griffin an open one.
According to Monty Pagenhardt, county administrator, the county consulted its attorney, who recommended that the commissioners wait until after the public hearings were done.
Pagenhardt said that the commissioners’ decision has been sent to the governor and to Griffin.
Gregg said that their decision does not affect the stance the county has on putting wind turbines on private land. He said that without any kind of zoning, there is nothing to prevent turbines from being placed on private land.
John Nelson, Garrett County director of planning and land development, said that the county may pursue legislation for regulation of the wind power industry. It would help to license the uses in the county.
However, he added that this would have no effect on state property.
By Sarah Moses
6 February 2008