As zoning has been presented as the only option for preventing or limiting the construction of wind turbines in Garrett County, adopting zoning might be possible through a referendum vote in each district.
“Wind power opponents have felt we could enforce this, but we don’t have the authority,” Ernie Gregg, county commissioner, said during Tuesday’s commission meeting.
John Nelson, director of planning and land development, explained that while the county has the authority to approve or deny projects through the building code, these decisions are based only on the safety and engineering of the structure, not height or appearance.
Nelson said that zoning regulations would allow restrictions to be placed, but that zoning that is not countywide can only be instituted by geographic region or by political district.
Jerry Plaugher of Deer Park asked why it wouldn’t be possible for restrictions to be placed on the ridge tops to prevent the construction of the turbines.
Denny Glotfelty, commission chairman, said that such restrictions would also affect other industries, including communication towers, which haven’t been an issue at this point in time.
Nelson added that zoning requires a comprehensive plan of the area to be zoned, and that would mean lumping together all the areas in the county with ridge tops as one group.
It had been suggested at a planning meeting last week that the commissioners approve a moratorium on development of wind turbines and that they pursue legislation to allow the county to have some form of authority over future projects. That suggestion was deemed impossible by the commissioners after consulting with the county attorney.
They said that a moratorium would require a halt on all building projects in the county and that without some form of zoning, no legislation would have any authority behind it.
The commissioners said they would be open to putting zoning up for a referendum, but only if there is a definite showing of support for the action. This would allow the zoning to be grouped by district as the Sunday alcohol sales have been.
Plaugher said he couldn’t see that happening.
“Zoning, it’s something that really rankles people,” Plaugher said. “Zoning regulations start out very simple, but give them 20 years.”
By Sarah Moses
13 February 2008
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