The Allegany County Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday authorized county staff to draft definitions and discuss the differences between industrial and residential wind turbines.
But Frostburg resident Rick Lashbaugh doesn’t think local government has gone far enough. With the Maryland Public Service Commission’s new fast-track method for industrial wind energy facilities, Lashbaugh told the board during the work session to “grab the bull by the horns.”
“They need to point to someone and say, ‘build wind turbines,'” said Lashbaugh, who owns property atop Dan’s Mountain, northeast of Dan’s Rock.
Lashbaugh said he doesn’t own enough land to benefit from companies like Pennsylvania-based US Wind Force LLC, which are paying other property owners an annual sum to development rights. But he said he’s watched government officials on all levels beat around the bush long enough and he’s “sick and tired.”
The environmental impact studies of snakes, bats and birds, among other creatures, Lashbaugh said, have been completed. To the best of his knowledge, he said, “everything came out fine.”
He said the looming energy crisis should be enough to get the Planning Commission “off your butts and do something. People have failed to take action.”
Lashbaugh said he’s “willing to live in the middle” of a wind farm and he doesn’t care if one is placed in his front yard.
Frederick Loar, of Loartown, owns enough property near Lashbaugh’s to benefit from US Wind Force. Loar, a retired farmer, has been receiving rights money for several years. The amount will increase once wind turbines are constructed.
Loar told the commission, in response to recent discussion about whether wind companies should be bonded, that his contract with US Wind Force declares a wind turbine unused for 24 months is “abandoned.” And if abandoned, that wind turbine must be removed within 90 days and the land returned to its original state or the company forfeits a $5,000 bond.
But commission member Charles Norris asked whether that was enough to ensure removal.
“I don’t think that’s even close,” said Norris, adding that it would be too easy for a company to forfeit the $5,000 and “walk, and say ‘you take care of it.'”
Commission member Bill Duvall said $5,000 wouldn’t be enough to cover the cost of renting of a crane necessary to dismantle the tower.
The commission authorized staff to develop draft language for industrial or commercial wind energy systems. The board also directed staff to distinguish residential turbines and suggest maximum height requirements – likely 30 feet – and minimum buffer zones, possibly between 1.5 and 2.5 times the height of a turbine as measured from bottom to the top of the tallest propeller.
Phil Hager, county planning coordinator, said current county code also lacks a formal public hearing process. Language could be drafted to include a special exception for residential turbines. Jim Squires, county permits, suggested to Hager before the meeting that residents have the ability of obtaining a waiver if all nearby neighbors within a specified distance approve of the residential turbine in writing.
Board members also endorsed the joint Cumberland/Allegany County planning initiative for the Willowbrook/Messick/Williams roads corridor. Hager said the city, with an eye toward future annexation, would take the lead on planning and provide staffing and financial assistance.
8 July 2008
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