During the past few months, the Somerset County Historical Trust has been reviewing the changes to the proposed industrial wind farm project advanced by Pioneer Green Energy. Great Bay Wind I, with 25 to 29 turbines that will range from 600 feet to 690 feet tall, will be located in the center part of our county.
Given the drastic changes to this project and our recent education about industrial wind projects in general, we are writing to express our deep concern for the hundreds of historic structures that define our rural county. The Somerset County Historical Trust has worked for 30 years documenting and researching Somerset County’s architectural and historical past. As a result, we are blessed with the highest number of National Register sites per capita in Maryland.
These buildings date from circa 1720 to 1940 and represent the most tangible links to our past. The standing buildings convey rich traditions in vernacular building practices and convey stories of past accomplishments, defining our cultural landscapes.
They offer future potential in tourism, as many festivals from the past have been centered on touring these antique structures.
The center part of the county is designated Agricultural/Residential, and our county zoning ordinance earmarks the AR Zone for “a full range of agricultural activities to protect agricultural land from encroachment by incompatible land uses, thereby encouraging a stable agricultural economy.”
These are lawful statements that property owners of old and new dwellings have trusted in good faith for planning improvements and making investments in the future. The adoption of an ordinance for the construction of industrial sized machines constitutes a reversal in policy and intent for the AR Zone, subjecting all property owners to negative aesthetics, negative health impacts and devaluation of their investments.
Historic buildings in the area of Great Bay Wind I will suffer devaluation. The towering turbines will be a definite disincentive for current and future owners in terms of maintenance of these irreplaceable historic structures.
The Somerset County Historical Trust is hopeful the Somerset County Planning Commission and County Commissioners will learn from mistakes that have occurred across the country with the overlay of industrial wind farms on environmentally and culturally sensitive regions.
We need a wind turbine ordinance that will protect property rights and the inherent beauty of historic landscapes in the Agricultural/Residential zone.
Gale Yerges is chairwoman of the Somerset County Historical Trust.
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