CUMBERLAND – The Allegany County Board of Zoning Appeals voted 2-1 Wednesday to permit the construction of 17 wind turbines on Dan’s Mountain.
The case, which first surfaced in 2015, placed representatives of Dan’s Mountain Wind Farm LLC against a citizens group opposed to the turbines called Allegany Neighbors and Citizens for Home Owners Rights Limited.
The vote took place at the Allegany County Office Complex on Kelly Road, a week after the three-member board heard arguments from both sides.
Although opposition leaders expressed disappointment with Wednesday’s ruling, they vowed to fight on with appeals.
Opponents of the proposal say the turbines create excessive noise pollution, light flicker and destruction of neighborhood views. They also fear the turbines, which are nearly 500 feet tall, will reduce property values.
The proposed wind farm would be located on the ridgeline of Dan’s Mountain near the communities of Midland and the Harwood Subdivision, along with Vale Summit, Cresaptown and Bel Air.
Prior to the vote, zoning board members spent about two hours reviewing individual setbacks on the parcels that are to be leased for placement of the turbines.
Chairman Bernard C. Wolters and Dale L. Dickerhoof voted in favor of the wind farm and Brian C. Alderton voted against it.
“I have given this a great deal of thought reviewing the record,” Dickerhoof said prior to the vote. “With that in mind, there are towers already visible from various parts of Dan’s Mountain. There are wind towers (in the Cumberland area) … you drive on I-68 and you can see wind towers at a distance through the Narrows.”
Wolters also supported the variances for the wind farm.
“I basically don’t see how this would impact this area worse than any other (area) within the county,” Wolters said.
In 2015, the board, which was comprised of three different members, denied the request to construct the 38-megawatt wind farm.
However, the case wound up at the Maryland Court of Special Appeals in 2018, which voted to send it back to Allegany County, asking the zoning board to take another look.
The local board was charged with determining the validity of the setbacks and separation variances contained in the application from property owners on Dan’s Mountain who wish to lease their property for the project.
One of the sticking points for many of the opponents, including board member Alderton, was state guidelines limiting the evidence presented in this month’s hearing to the material presented in the 2015 hearing.
“I have difficulty with the whole thing,” Alderton said. “It is hard for me sitting here and looking at it through 2019 eyes. As you start to research with (current) best practices, you are getting setbacks up to a mile and a half. There is a lot of new research out there; things are changing. Does it have an adverse impact? It is starting to look that way.”
The project is expected to utilize 2,900 acres – approximately 4.5 square miles.
Attorney Gorman Getty represented Dan’s Mountain Wind Force and Paul Flynn, a Frederick-based lawyer, represented the ANCHOR group. Members of ANCHOR expressed their frustration with the ruling after the hearing.
“It is very disappointing,” Kathryn Russo said. “They didn’t even consider the impact on the community. You can’t just disregard what people are going to go through and that they will live with these things in their backyard.”
Russo said using 2015 evidence was a concern.
“We weren’t even here in 2015. There is more evidence coming out … a lot of negative health effects. I suffer from migraines. That should be considered and they glossed over it like, ‘Oh, we won’t even consider it.'”
Darlene Park is the president of ANCHOR.
“We have recourse now to go to the Circuit Court,” Park said. “Our attorney is reviewing the steps and what has occurred here today.
“Two of the judges did not follow what the Special Court of Appeals said to do,” she said. “The court outlined how it was to be done. Mr. Alderton, he understood and he wanted to follow it and he opposed (the wind farm).”
The wind farm must still receive approval from the Public Service Commission in the form of a certificate of public convenience and necessity.
“Our next step will be to try to stop them from getting a certificate,” Park said. “This project has a range of 1.5 miles of disturbance. They don’t care that it will affect 32,000 people in five communities.
“The evidence from 2015 was outdated. They were already making a mile (separation) from a home. You have to remember this location is three narrow strips placed in between five communities. This Dan’s Mountain region is 52% of the population in all of Allegany County. They discounted the opposition testimony and didn’t even consider the impact on the citizens in the western part of the county.”
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