Crisfield officials gave final approval to an ordinance giving them the authority to use eminent domain to acquire property on Seventh Street that sits in the middle of a planned wind turbine project at the sewage treatment plant.
The measure is necessary to create a buffer zone around the turbine, said city attorney Michael Sullivan.
Mayor Percy “P.J.” Purnell said after negotiations with the property owners, Weldon and Felda Massey, failed, the city resorted to using eminent domain – the right of government to take private property for public use.
“You get to the point where you say, ‘what other choices do we have?’ ” he said.
The approval Monday was the final action by the current City Council before a new mayor and county members were sworn in Wednesday.
The property is an unoccupied concrete block apartment building and is one of four needed for the turbine, which will power the sewer plant.
The city has already purchased the other three neighboring properties and demolished the buildings on them.
The 750-kilowatt wind turbine will be built at the end of Dixon Street next to the sewer plant, but the adjacent properties are necessary for its operation by creating a safety buffer around it, city officials have said.
The legal proceedings to obtain the property won’t delay the start of the project, which will first involve pouring a 25-foot concrete base and installing electrical wiring. The turbine itself is being built to order and will take several months to complete.
Once the project is finished, the turbine will provide power to the sewer plant and is expected to save the city $150,000 to $200,000 a year in electrical costs.
Although the turbine is expected to generate more than enough electricity to power the sewer plant, it must still connect to the grid since the plant needs a consistent source of electricity, and the turbine’s output could fluctuate depending on how windy it is, officials have said. The city also can sell the excess electricity back to the grid.
The project has been scaled down from its original design after officials at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in St. Mary’s County expressed concerns that turbines will interfere with radar systems.
The turbine now planned for a site will be under the 300-foot height limit set by the Navy.
Funding for the turbine won approval from the Maryland Board of Public Works last year. The city will receive $4.1 million – $3.6 million from the state’s Department of the Environment and a $560,000 federal Community Development Block Grant.
The Crisfield turbine project is unrelated to a proposed $200 million commercial wind farm in the Westover and Marion Station areas.
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