As a county panel made final changes to a proposed ordinance for industrial wind turbines, some members said they preferred delaying a final vote until after touring a wind farm.
A tour would be a reality check for Glenn Ains, a member of the Somerset County Planning and Zoning Commission who said some recommendations by the panel – namely sound and height provisions – were done without the benefit of independent data or a firsthand look at an industrial turbine operation.
Uncertainty led members Pat Carson and Robert Fitzgerald on Thursday to withdraw their support for a 40-decibel nighttime sound level that had passed by majority vote earlier in the week. Commission chairwoman Mary Fleury cast the third vote for the 40-decibel level.
Instead, Carson motioned for a 55-decibel maximum at night, in keeping with requirements established by Maryland code. The measure passed 4-2, with members Fleurys and Carol Samus voting against the revision. Member Kevin Andersen abstained.
“I think I made a mistake,” Carson told members toward the end of the meeting on Thursday. “I think we should go with the state guidelines.”
An earlier vote for a daytime 65-decibel level remained intact, and in keeping with state code.
Ains said the six active commission members should visit a wind farm before deciding maximum turbine height, which currently is established at 400 feet. An earlier 3-3 split vote failed to garner enough support to raise or lower turbine height.
“This has to do with our county over the next 100 years,” Ains said. “I want to make sure the information I’m using is accurate.”
Fleury said rethinking proposed provisions after deciding on them delays the process, which already was extended 30 days, or until Nov. 3.
Ains said he would poll members about a tour of wind farm far or near.
The group decided to meet Oct. 28 to do a final reading, and likely vote on the proposed draft ordinance before submitting the document to County Commissioners by Nov. 3.
Planning Commission attorney James Porter said there would be a public hearing for citizen input before the proposed document is voted on by County Commissioners.
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