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County staff to begin looking at code for wind turbines  

The Allegany County Planning and Zoning Commission has authorized county planning staff to look into current code regarding wind turbines and what other jurisdictions have done to control both commercial and residential wind energy devices.

Former state Sen. John Bambacus asked board members on Wednesday to draft a letter to the county commissioners recommending a six-month moratorium on the issuance of siting and grading permits related to wind turbines. Bambacus said he felt the moratorium was necessary because the issue is “much more complicated and complex that what I’ve heard tonight.”

Prior to his comments, Phil Hager, county planning coordinator, and commission members discussed what current county code dictates on commercial wind facilities. Current code mentions little for residential uses. Restrictions for both could include buffer zones, height limits and adequate fall zones so that, in the event a turbine falls, it doesn’t land on an adjoining property.

Bill Davis, who was on the commission six years ago when the county adopted its current policy, argued that the discussion was “premature” because there were no permits filed. But commission counsel Wes McKee said it wasn’t too early to consider policy changes in an effort to control “what is coming down the road.”

If a permit were filed “today or tomorrow,” McKee said, “we don’t have the ability to stop this.”

McKee said there would be virtually no public input and only the Maryland Public Service Commission would oversee such projects.

The dialogue nearly ended there. Davis said wind turbines “is not an issue” and made a motion to suspend further discussion. However, the motion failed to receive a second and died. That opened the floor to Bambacus and two other residents who oppose wind turbines.

Bambacus said he presented a similar request for a moratorium to the city of Frostburg’s planning commission during a work session on Tuesday. Frostburg has two wind turbines currently in use, one for research purposes on the campus of Frostburg State University and a second constructed by a private homeowner. Bambacus said there was a consensus among city planning commissioners to request the moratorium.

Bambacus suggested companies be bonded and be held responsible for the tear down of a turbine once it became inoperable. He said that expense should not be a burden paid by future generations.

K. Darlene Park, a Harwood subdivision resident, said she’s already a “victim of FEMA trailers” which block her once-scenic view from her front porch in Clarysville.

“Now you’re telling me to look at wind farms,” said Park, who supported the request for a moratorium. “You’re turning a blind eye. You’re not thinking about me” and other home owners.

Steve Dollinger of Frostburg said the Public Service Commission’s “fast track provision” which allows wind energy facilities to escape much of the public scrutiny if they are planned at 70 megawatts or less is an incentive for companies to carve up larger projects.

“My prediction is they cut it into pieces,” he said. “Time is of the essence” for limiting and regulating wind turbines.

Kevin Spradlin

Cumberland Times-News

19 June 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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