FINZEL – A majority of the Frostburg Road residents in attendance at the Synergics Wind Energy LLC meeting on Tuesday were opposed to the proposed Fourmile Ridge Wind Energy Project, according to resident Jim McCann.
Engineers met with immediate property owners to update them on the status of the project and to answer questions about the 24 wind turbine project to be located on St. John’s Rock at Fourmile Ridge between Avilton and Frostburg.
A lot of the questions revolved around setbacks, potential loss of property values and how the project would benefit the community, according to McCann.
In regard to setbacks, McCann said that according to the concept plan for the proposed project the wind turbines would be located 500 feet from property lines and 1,000 feet from homes.
“They said that 1,000 was a wind industry-based standard but there was no real basis on why the standard exists,” said McCann.
The Board of Garrett County Commissioners has drafted a land use management ordinance that addresses wind turbine setbacks but came to a stalemate when it came to passing the ordinance.
The ordinance proposes an industrial wind turbine setback from an occupied dwelling of five times the height measuring from base to the hub of the turbine and from a property line it proposes three times the height.
The commission has received numerous comments from citizens both in support of and against the wind project and the ordinance.
The commission received petitions with 642 signatures opposing the draft land-use management ordinance.
In June, McCann wrote a letter in support of the ordinance, but also said he thought the setbacks in the proposed ordinance were inadequate.
“They (the setbacks) fail to provide meaningful protection to landowners from debris and ice throw, excessive noise levels and shadow/light flicker,” wrote McCann in his letter to the commissioners. “They also do little to protect landowners from inevitable reductions in property values.”
The Synergics engineers indicated during the meeting that recent studies indicate that there was no loss of property values where wind turbines were located, said McCann.
However, McCann said a Frostburg Road resident provided an example of potential home buyers withdrawing their interest for a home because of the proposed project.
“Another point that was raised during the (Tuesday) meeting was the fact that there wasn’t an opportunity for the public to comment on the proposed wind project or play role in meaningful way,” said McCann. These concerns included safety worries such as ice throw, collapsing turbines and environmental issues.
During a discussion of the ordinance in June, the commissioners said there were petitions with 94 signatures supporting the project on Fourmile Ridge.
“This projects approval would lay the groundwork for a definitive environmental a-wareness in Garrett County and also support our most important industries, including health care and education with, extra tax dollars,” said the petition.
The project will generate both personal property taxes and real property taxes for 25 years of useful life, said Frank Maisano, a Synergics spokes-man. “Property owners will be getting the revenue shares and will be spending that wealth within the community.”
The two operating wind projects on Backbone Mountain paid about $2 million in new taxes to Garrett County for year 2011, said Maisano. This includes $1.7 million in personal property taxes and rest in the form of real property taxes on increased assessment for land parcels on which the project was constructed. The project will also bring about six to eight full-time construction jobs to the area.
Synergics has submitted a concept plan for the proposed wind project, which is part of the county’s stormwater management ordinance requirements, to the county, according to Jim Torrington, chief of the Garrett County Permits and Inspections Division.
The project needs the building permit from the county, which will be approved in three phases, the project has already received phase 1 comments, according to Maisano.
“It is anticipated that the project will be completed by December 2013 or summer 2014 depending on obtaining the building permits and commencement of construction,” said Maisano.
Torrington said that anyone interested in viewing the concept plan may contact him at his office to do so.
“We would want to see FAA approval for determination of no hazard to air navigation before we would issue a building permit,” said Torrington.
Synergics has yet to receive approval from the FAA for the proposed wind turbines.
Before wind turbines can be fully operational, the permits division is required to issue a variety of additional permits, such as a grading permit, which can take up to a year and certificate of use for each wind turbine.