By unanimous vote, the Garrett County Planning Commission has decided to remove wording of county support for wind power from its comprehensive plan draft. In an 6-2 vote, the group also recommends that legislation be introduced that would give the county authority to regulate wind turbine.
Additionally, the commission members want the county commissioners to place a moratorium on wind turbine development in Garrett County.
Those decisions took place yesterday during the Planning Commission’s regular monthly meeting at the courthouse. About 25 people attended the event, with several voicing concerns about how the proposed plan deals with wind turbines.
Some of the those same residents discussed the issue last week with the Garrett County commissioners, questioning why a paragraph about wind power needed to be included in the plan. They noted that the wording conflicted with the local Heritage Plan, which designates the entire county as a heritage resource.
The original paragraph in the comprehensive plan refers to a turbine project that has been proposed along the southern end of Backbone Mountain.
“While the county acknowledges the potential negative impacts of wind power facilities, it also recognizes the benefits, especially those related to clean, sustainable power generation, and the socioeconomic and fiscal benefits to the county,” the paragraph reads. “On balance, the county supports wind pow-er at appropriate locations, provided any site-specific negative impacts can be mitigated.”
The Planning Commission wants to remove that last line.
At their meeting last week, the county commissioners told the residents that the passage was needed because wind energy is a potential issue that needed to addressed. The commissioners were in Annapolis on Wednesday and were not able to attend the Planning Commission meeting.
The commissioners, however, issued the following statement this morning:
“The Board of County Commissioners has considered the public comments and recommendations of the Garrett County Planning Commission, specifically in relationship to the regulation of and a potential moratorium on windmills in the county. The Board of County Commissioners appreciates the role of the Planning Commission in addressing important planning functions and appreciates the advice that it receives from that commission.
“The Planning Commission has recommended the imposition of a moratorium on the location of windmills in Garrett County. A moratorium, under current county regulations, would require a moratorium on all building construction not simply the one area, wind power. The moratorium on all construction and the issuance of all building permits is, in the opinion of the Board of County Commissioners, not an appropriate remedy in these circumstances.
“The regulation of land use is a product of the power of the Board of County Commissioners to adopt and implement zoning regulations as a power delegated to the county by the state under the provisions of Article 66B of the Annotated Code of Maryland. Garrett County has accepted the delegation of power and regulates land use through the Deep Creek Watershed Zoning Ordinance in those areas within the watershed of Deep Creek Lake. Outside of that watershed and that zoning district, the county has not adopted comprehensive land use regulations through zoning.
“Land use in the state of Maryland has generally been administered on a local level. The Planning Commission fills one of the vital roles in the process of land use regulation. The implementation of or recommendation for additional legislation, as the Planning Commission has recommended, is a matter that requires greater study before requesting action by the legislature. As the Planning Commission understands, the regulation of land use under authority of Article 66B necessarily requires a comprehensive approach to all land use, not simply a single form of use such as wind power. It may be appropriate for the Planning Commission to consider the issue of comprehensive land use (countywide zoning) as a part of their role in local land regulations.”
7 February 2008
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