FROSTBURG — As the Aug. 20 meeting approaches, at which the Frostburg mayor and council may very well decide whether to allow residential wind turbines, the city’s development director said the goal is to keep from banning wind energy technology while not allowing it to move forward unrestricted.

“Planners are required to balance the problematic aspects of this developing technology within the community against an owner’s right to use property to contain energy costs, improve reliability of service, reduce carbon emissions,” said Richard Harris.

Harris’ comments came in letter to former Mayor John Bambacus, who has systematically questioned the city’s efforts of about one year to deal with future wind turbines within the municipality.

An ordinance regulating residential wind turbines was passed on its first reading in July and must be read again before a vote may be taken.

Although a maximum height of 165 feet is being proposed for such devices, Harris points out that setback distances in the ordinance would rule out turbines of that height in the city’s old and/or historic neighborhoods.

“... lots are typically small, particularly with regard to front lot line measurements,” Harris said. “A typical historic Frostburg lot is 50 feet by 150 feet. Many are smaller.”

The ordinance requires that a wind turbine must be set back from property lines a greater distance than its height.

According to a map provided by Harris, only a small portion of Frostburg has land parceled so that turbines of 165 feet could be constructed without requiring easements from neighboring property owners. Those sites are mostly along the city’s southern boundary and near Interstate 68, such as the state Route 36 and Braddock Road corridors.

Harris and City Administrator John Kirby have said that perhaps the greatest protection built into the ordinance for neighbors and neighborhoods is that each request for a wind turbine is considered to be a variance and must pass through a rigorous review process before the winds descending from Big Savage Mountain can spin any blades.

Additionally, the city has proposed that its Historic District Commission will have authority over any structure visible from the street. That idea will be the subject of a separate vote Aug. 20.

Harris assured Bambacus, as he has assured others, that the city was not lobbied in any form or fashion by the wind energy industry during the creation of the ordinance.

He pointed out, too, that the Planning Commission considered height of a wind turbine to be a more efficient regulation than limiting the amount of power that can be produced.

City officials have said that the wind turbine ordinance is an effort to stay ahead of any potential construction of the devices. “At this time, limited interest has been shown for any wind turbine installations,” Harris said.

Contact Michael A. Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.

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