Governor O’Malley’s decision banning wind turbines from State Forest lands was certainly good news for Garrett County. However, the fact that destruction of the last remaining wilderness in Maryland was even seriously considered is a sad testament to the absurdity of wind turbines blanketing the eastern mountains. Wind developers will now be redoubling their efforts to construct turbines on private lands wherever they can find landowners gullible enough to sign away their property forever, for a few thousand dollars of annual rental income.
Since there are no regulations restricting the placement of turbines on private lands in Garrett County, and since the legislature in 2007 stripped away all Public Service Commission oversight, any wind developer, no matter how undercapitalized, incompetent, shady, or unscrupulous, may erect hundreds of turbines anywhere it chooses, at will.
This will become the fate of Garrett County if nothing is done locally to stop them. Fortunately, something can be done, if our public officials will only exercise the courage and good judgment their responsibilities of office dictate. According to William Wantz, a top land-use attorney, an ordinance prohibiting the construction of wind turbines anywhere in the county may be enacted by simple majority vote of the Commissioners. It does not require comprehensive countywide zoning and is specifically permitted under the 2007 legislation removing PSC oversight.
Last week the Planning Commission narrowly rejected recommending just such an ordinance to the commissioners. This rejection was presumably based upon their belief that the only way to restrict turbines was to establish countywide zoning. This is simply incorrect. Hopefully, when this fact is validated, the Planning Commission will approve the ordinance and the commissioners will do the same.
It is no secret that the commissioners may attempt to use this simple ordinance as a “red herring” to once again try to implement countywide comprehensive zoning. Let’s be clear – there is absolutely no need for this and it should be rejected out of hand.
If nothing is done, in a few years Garrett County will be littered with hundreds of massive industrial wind turbines strung along the ridge tops in every sector of the county. Their slowly turning blades, flashing lights, and relentless noise will permeate and come to define the county. It will be irreversible. There will be no place to escape. We will be ever sorry if we let this happen.
Vincent A. Collins
24 April 2008