CUMBERLAND – Satisfied that state wildlife managers had no additional concerns about potential impacts upon fauna, the Maryland Public Service Commission on Wednesday said Dan’s Mountain Wind Force LLC could take until Dec. 31, 2014, to start building turbines there.
The company had cited delays caused by financial difficulties that prevented a Sept. 12, 2013, construction start. In July, more time was requested.
DMWF also told the PSC additional time is needed to work with restrictive Allegany County zoning rules and any court action that might be required.
The request for an extension came before the four-member PSC board on Aug. 27, but was deferred until the Maryland Department of Natural Resources could provide an opinion about wildlife impacts.
The DNR sent that letter Aug. 28, indicating that the agency was satisfied with earlier company commitments to protect bats and birds, specifically eagles, and did not oppose the extension request.
“We were certainly glad to hear that the Public Service Commission approved the extension of the construction start deadline for the Dan’s Mountain project,” wrote David K. Friend in an email to the Times-News Wednesday.
Friend is the CEO of Laurel Renewable Partners, owners of DMWF.
“It was a reasonable accommodation,” Friend wrote. “We certainly hope that we are successful in working through the process with the county, as well.
“The project, when completed, will become one of the county’s largest taxpayers and will provide much-needed jobs and other significant benefits to the county.”
In correspondence with the PSC, the developers said existing county zoning laws would reduce the number of turbines from 25 to one.
In 2009, the county approved rules that would require that a turbine of more than 300 feet be located at least 900 feet from a property line and 2,000 feet from a residence.
The zoning law, though, allows that distance to be cut in half if enough neighboring property owners agree.
Garrett County has similar wording regarding neighbors of a potential turbine site.
However, the Times-News reported Wednesday that Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler believes allowing neighbors to establish zoning regulations is unconstitutional and Garrett’s commissioners have agreed to forego that portion of the law.
The difference is that Garrett’s law was created via the Maryland General Assembly and the rules in Allegany were established solely by county officials.
Allegany’s status as a code home rule county allows zoning laws to be enacted locally. Garrett, a charter county, does not have that option.
Friend said it is too early for DMWF to offer an opinion about the applicability of Gansler’s comments in Allegany County.
The wind turbine developers are also allowed to seek a variance through the Allegany County Board of Zoning Appeals.