Questions brought up over wording in the comprehensive plan have led to a decision by the Garrett County Planning Commission to recommend legislation and a moratorium on wind power in the county.
The decision for the board to make the suggestion to the county comissioners was made Wednesday in a 6-2 vote, with an additional unanimous vote to remove the wording of county support for wind power from the comprehensive plan draft.
“I’ve listened to arguments about parking places and signage,” John Bombacus, a local resident, said. “These things are going to be 400 feet tall.”
Some of those in attendance were worried that by letting regulations go through their traditional processes, it might be too late to effect new, smaller projects from getting approval at a state level.
Barbara Boone said she felt language in the draft of the county’s comprehensive plan saying the county supported wind power was incorrect, considering the turnout at the recent public hearing at Garrett College.
The moratorium, if approved by the commissioners, would halt all progress on wind power in the county until further decisions could be made and more information gathered. It could also ensure that proposed legislation to license the wind turbines would have time to go through the legislature.
Because the county does not have any zoning at this point, Paul Durham said he felt that any statement in favor or against power would be “impotent” because there is no way to enforce regulations or even establish them.
Tony Doerr, member of the commission, said he felt that as the draft was something to still be modified, it was possible to change the current wording and remove the portion of the document that spoke in favor of wind power in appropriate locations.
Many had hoped that the planning commission would be able to institute some form of regulation against the turbines, but the commission explained that such an act would take countywide zoning.
John Nelson, director of planning and land development, said the county couldn’t simply enforce something like building height restrictions because that is not something currently part of the permitting process in the county. He said that permit applications are approved based upon mechanical and architectural engineering for safety standards, not on the design or appearance of the structure.
Troy Ellington, chairman of the planning commission, said that if there is the desire for regulation of the turbines, that it might be time for a “grassroots” effort to allow zoning in the county.
By Sarah Moses
7 February 2008
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