Cumberland Times-News

Local News

September 3, 2013

Part of Garrett wind bill said to be invalid

OAKLAND — A portion of Senate Bill 370, which deals with setback requirements for wind turbines, was deemed unconstitutional by Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler because it would have given adjacent neighbors zoning authority.

Gansler sent a letter in May to Gov. Martin O’Malley saying that certain provisions of that bill are unconstitutional and can’t be enforced, said Monty Pagenhardt, county administrator, during the commission meeting on Tuesday.  

“The bill will proceed, as it was written into law during the last session, except those certain provisions of the bill that were declared unconstitutional,” said Pagenhardt.

“There is a bill right now that is ready to be drafted by the department of legislative services that will address the certain provisions that pertain to setbacks and variances. That will be amended during the 2014 General Assembly,” he said.

The provision of the bill that was deemed unconstitutional deals with an adjoining property owner’s consent to a variance for a wind turbine setback requirement, according to the letter.

“While it is our view that this consent provision is likely to be unconstitutional, we believe that it can be severed from the bill,” wrote Gansler. “There are also other legal problems relating to this variance provision that should be corrected in the next session of the General Assembly.”

By requiring the consent of all adjoining property owners prior to applying for the variance, the bill has given neighboring property owners the power to determine whether or not a variance from setback requirements for wind turbines would be detrimental to the public health and welfare, according to the letter.

“Thus, it is our view that such delegation of zoning authority to individual landowners is of doubtful constitutionality,” read the letter.

Gansler suggests that, should the county approve the bill in spite of the defect, that they should administer the law as if adjoining property owners’ consent is not required.  

State Sen. George Edwards is aware of the defect with the bill and indicated that the matter should be placed on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting and open to public comment, according to Pagenhardt.

Commissioner Jim Raley stressed that all the setbacks in the bill are legal but the variances aren’t.

The bill provides for a minimum setback for a wind turbine of, “no less than two and half times the structure height,” in the county.

“I think  (Edwards) views that (the bill is) salvageable, there are certain sections that are already enforceable on new future projects,” said Raley.

The portions of the bill that are enforceable don’t apply to wind systems that have submitted a specified interconnection application to the PJM before March 1.   

Oakland area resident Eric Robison, who testified for the bill, suggested that additional language in the bill should be amended.

Robison suggested that a portion of the bill dealing with the definition of setback distance be amended to non leased property line.

The current definition of a setback distance is the distance measured from the base of the tower of a wind turbine in a wind system to any residential, commercial, public or agricultural building in all directions.

“This would allow those property owners that didn’t enter into a lease the full lease of their land,” said Robison. “I think that the county should open this back up to some type of transparent stakeholder participation in how that language would come forward.”

Robison suggested that the county utilize the same process that the Department of Planning and Land Development uses when when determining  wind turbine setback regulations.

Edwards negotiated the terms for setbacks in the bill with the Maryland Energy Administration and in doing so changed the initial setback, according to Robison.

The setback was changed from property line to occupied structures, buildings and out buildings.

The change in the initial setback allows for energy development to occur at a property line which in turn allows for wind turbines to go in adjacent property close enough to experience possible ice throw from the turbines, according to Robison.

Robison said that after looking at any documents in the county pertaining to setbacks that they were all done within the property line, with the bill being the exception.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.

1
Text Only
Local News
  •  Easter grass Easter grass

    Kamryn Rice, 7, of Flintstone, finds and bags a plastic egg during Cumberland’s annual Easter Egg Hunt Saturday afternoon at Constitution Park. Hosted by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, along with students from Frostburg State University’s Recreation and Parks Management program and the 4-H Youth of Allegany County, the afternoon also included games, relay races, face painting, temporary tattoos, arts and crafts, and a petting zoo sponsored by the 4-H Hare Raiser Club, as well as a visit from the Easter Bunny. The eggs contained candy and other treats.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Business community wary of minimum wage increases

    CUMBERLAND — Allegany County businesses are certain to be impacted by the increase in Maryland’s minimum wage, set to reach $10.10 an hour by July 2018 under a law championed by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

    April 20, 2014

  • Tipped workers left behind in pay hike action

    ANNAPOLIS — Many minimum wage workers will be getting a raise now that a hike to Maryland’s wage has been signed into law. But while advocates are ascribing the increase as a win, there’s a bitter aftertaste for one group that was left behind.

    April 20, 2014

  • Views vary among Americans when it comes to hourly rate

    CUMBERLAND — Even among those who have worked minimum wage jobs, views on the minimum wage can differ.
    “Minimum wage has to exist. There is no question there, so whatever it is, it will be called ‘minimum wage’. But it should not be below a living wage,” said Bonita Quick of Cumberland.

    April 20, 2014

  • Income guideline change will increase WIC recipients

    KEYSER, W.Va. — Raised income eligibility guidelines for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children will increase the number of those served in West Virginia by about 10 percent, according to the state health officer.

    April 20, 2014

  • Absentee ballots moving online causes security concerns

    ANNAPOLIS — Voters may get to skip the lines at the polls this summer by receiving and marking their ballots online, but election officials must first decide if the convenience outweighs the security risks.

    April 20, 2014

  • Allegany County emergency medical services honorees and supporters Allegany, Garrett emergency responders honored

    MCHENRY — The 75 people from Allegany and Garrett counties who were involved with two exceptional emergency medical services calls in 2013 were presented with awards at the recent Night for Stars program held at the Wisp Resort.

    April 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • Lexis Trickett meets with Gov. Martin O’Malley Ninth-grader among 30 at inaugural event

    OAKLAND — Lexis Trickett, a ninth-grade student at Southern Garrett High School, was among 30 girls who attended Gov. Martin O’Malley’s Leadership Forum for Women and Girls recently in Annapolis in celebration of Women’s History Month.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • School immunization requirements change

    CUMBERLAND — Changes to school immunization requirements by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene affect students entering kindergarten and seventh grade for the next school year.

    April 20, 2014

  • Easter experience Easter experience

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

Facebook
Must Read
News related video
Raw: Crowds Rally at '420' Celebration in Denver Marathoners Celebrate Easter With Tradition Raw: Obamas Attend Easter Service Raw: Easter Morning Delivery for Space Station Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case Horseless Carriage Introduced at NY Auto Show Chelsea Clinton Is Pregnant Beau Biden Plans 2016 Run for Del. Governor