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County planning director withholds wind turbine specs  

The Allegany County Planning and Zoning Commission was able to see proposed setbacks and buffers of wind turbines from schools, homes and other buildings Wednesday night. The public, however, was not.

Phil Hager, county planner coordinator and executive director of the commission, called it “an internal document … of my own creation,” said it was “handed” to commission members – versus being presented to them during a public meeting – and after the meeting declined to give a copy to the Times-News.

The document includes “performance-based” ideas for changes to the county zoning code. The intent, Hager told the commission, was to make the requirements tied to the level of impact a project would have “so we’re not using a sledge hammer to kill an ant.”

The Planning Commission authorized county staff at its July 7 work session to draft proposed legislation.

Members also asked staff to more acutely define wind turbines and distinguish industrial, or commercial turbines, from residential, or noncommercial turbines. That was a dialogue Hager was willing to conduct in public.

The language – proposed text changes to the zoning code – defined a noncommercial wind energy conversion system as a “single wind energy device” or turbine “intended to utilize wind power to generate electricity” or to power certain farm equipment. “Energy produced by such devices is primarily intended for the use of the individual landowner upon whose property the device is situated,” Hager read aloud.

An industrial wind energy conversion system is defined as a turbine “in such a configuration as necessary to convert the power or wind into mechanical or electrical energy … (where) the energy produced by such systems is intended for sale to large-scale energy providers through the grid system.”

An industrial wind farm, simply, is “an area arranged and dedicated to the construction and maintenance of more than one wind energy conversion system” and, again, where the “energy produced by such systems is intended for sale to large-scale energy providers through the grid system.”

Commission chairman Bill Duvall said the definitions proposed “seemed to be very much to the point.”

The definitions, along with the proposed setbacks, buffers and other language not made available to the public, are to be discussed at the commission’s Aug. 4 work session. The document handed to the commission Wednesday will be made public then, Hager said.

If the commission agrees with the zoning code text changes, it would then conduct a public hearing and, after that, the county commissioners would need to hold one.

“This is an issue that will probably be with us for a little while,” Hager said.

Also on Wednesday, the Planning Commission endorsed six applications for agricultural easements. The voluntary program allows homeowners to sell development rights to the state in exchange for compensation. Five properties are in the northwest corner of the county and the sixth is along Town Creek in eastern Allegany County.

By a 4-0 vote, commission members also approved modifying the Priority Funding Area map. A landowner near Pinto has requested a portion of land no longer be included. It’s unknown if the amount of land, about 130 acres, can be added to another PFA.

The commission also gave final plat approval to Section B of Laurelhurst at Cumberland Chase, a planned major subdivision south of Cresaptown.

Kevin Spradlin

Cumberland Times-News

17 July 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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