Allegany County’s current zoning codes define key terms in regards to wind turbines – but not where, or under what circumstances, they could be allowed.
During a work session Monday, the Planning and Zoning Commission heard reasons why county staff should pursue defining what is and is not permitted in the county for both industrial and residential uses. The commission is expected to approve a study at its June 18 meeting.
Phil Hager, county planning coordinator, said a review should include economic impact, including job creation, the potential for lower energy costs, and the effect of wind farms on the natural habitat and wildlife.
The commission said a study should include required buffer zones and height regulations of wind turbines.
“To date, no permits have been issued, although considerable interest has been expressed,” Hager said.
The issue – hotly debated in recent months in Garrett County – is bound to come to Allegany County because there are apparent pockets of ridgetops suitable for wind energy systems. Hager said the county should define its role because “it seems like everyone has an opinion.”
“We want to make sure we have the information out there” for stakeholders to view, Hager said.
The county currently defines and generally describes wind energy conversion systems, wind farms and wind turbines under county code chapter 141-71.
Commission Chairman Bill Duvall said he felt contractors should be bonded for the removal and cleanup of such sites. Commission member Ted Robinette said the study also should include other structures such as cell phone towers. Member Bill Davis observed there are some two dozen cell phone towers atop Dan’s Mountain but “how many are operable, I don’t know.”
Davis noted there are limited areas in Allegany County for industrial wind farms, most of them west of Frostburg.
“The eastern part is not even close to qualifying” with enough wind, Davis said.
Residential wind turbines are already set up in the county, Davis said. There’s one for research purposes at Frostburg State University, another erected by a private homeowner within the city limits of Frostburg and a third operated by a private homeowner in unincorporated Allegany County.
“This is becoming a hugely controversial issue down state,” Hager said. “A lot of people living in pretty exclusive neighborhoods” are seeking to lower energy costs by installing wind turbines.
The idea has met obstacles, largely in the form of neighbors, in those communities. But Hager seemed taken aback when commission members told of the one in the county.
After a noticeable pause, Hager responded, “there’s no permit required.”
4 June 2008
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