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Will commissioners exercise eminent domain?

Editor’s note: The writer of the following letter to county administrator Monty Pagenhardt and county attorney Gorman Getty requested that it appear in this column.

Mr. Pagenhardt and Mr. Getty:

Will Garrett County use its power of eminent domain to unlawfully seize private property in the event a citizen refuses to grant an easement of any kind to permit an industrial wind turbine company right of way for a cable crossing, access road, etc.? What is the county’s position on the use of eminent domain as it relates to siting, permitting, or constructing anything to do with a 440-foot industrial wind turbine?

This is the question, on the public record, and in accordance with the Maryland Open Meetings Act, that I ask you to bring before the Board of Garrett County Commissioners as an agenda item at their next meeting.

The issue of eminent domain as it relates to the taking of private property without depriving individuals of their property rights is a salient one in light of the commissioners’ refusal, with your concurrence, to enact laws to protect the health, safety, and general welfare of its citizens regarding the permitting, siting, and construction of industrial wind turbines in Garrett County. As you know, courts have always recognized that governments can make laws to protect their citizens from potential danger and catastrophe, yet Commissioners Gregg, Glotfelty, and Holliday have shirked and willfully neglected their sworn responsibility to do the right thing by providing necessary safeguards. It is difficult for me to understand how hours of discussion can be spent on the size of signs and the square footage of kitchens, while silence abounds on this issue.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in Kelo v. City of New London, June 23, 2005, approved “economic development” as a legal taking for “public use.” Under this decision, it would not be a stretch to suggest that our commissioners would use eminent domain to take through easement or right of way privately owned land and turn it over to wind developers for their profit under the guise of higher tax revenue for the county.


John N. Bambacus

Former state senator

representing Garrett and Allegany counties

The Republican

24 April 2008