CUMBERLAND — More than 40 citizens provided comments Wednesday during a public hearing on the proposed Dan’s Mountain Wind Farm.
The Maryland Public Service Commission held the hearing via video and phone conferencing with Chief Public Utility Law Judge Ryan C. McLean presiding.
In a case that has dragged on for several years, the plan has placed representatives of Dan’s Mountain Wind Force LLC against Allegany Neighbors and Citizens for Home Owners Rights (ANCHOR) Limited, a citizens’ group opposing the project.
The project calls for 17 wind turbines to be constructed on the ridgeline of Dan’s Mountain near the communities of Midland and the Harwood Subdivision, along with Vale Summit, Cresaptown and Bel Air.
Opponents argue the project would create excessive noise pollution, light flicker and destruction of neighborhood views. They also fear the turbines, which are nearly 500 feet in height, would negatively impact property values
The project was denied by the Allegany County Board of Zoning Appeals in 2015, however, through an appeals process, a state court sent the case back to Allegany County in 2019. In October 2019 a new group of zoning board members approved the project by a 2-1 vote.
Dan’s Mountain Wind Force LLC must now receive a certificate of public convenience from the PSC to move forward with the project. Wednesday’s hearing was an opportunity for individuals on both sides to have their opinions heard.
Phillip Bush spoke in opposition to the project.
“We own almost 30 acres on Barbers Hill Road we purchased in September 2017 after the Dan’s Mountain project had been turned down, at that time, by the zoning board,” Bush said. “We thought it would be safe to purchase. We bought the property so we could be surrounded by nature. The turbines will essentially be in our front yard. For the last 40 years we had dreamed of retiring to the beauty and peace of the Appalachian Mountains. If this project is built, our dream will be destroyed.”
Cliff Wendricks, speaking for the project, said he lives on a wind farm.
“My wife and I own property on the New Creek wind farm in Mineral County, West Virginia. I’ve had firsthand experience seeing a wind farm site being developed from start to finish,” he said. “I’ve witnessed the tree removal, land clearing and construction of roads and process of erecting the turbines. My wife and I were apprehensive of having a turbine placed on our land. We researched it and stood under a turbine and talked to people in the neighborhood. We decided to move forward. I asked that you allow the project to be built so we put the construction workers to work, so land owners can receive compensation to help maintain their land, and that our dying community can continue to survive with the replacement of lost tax revenue.”
Elaine Ridenour, who lives in Harwood, opposes the project.
“I have been involved in the fight against this project since 2008,” she said. “The issues such as property value impact, noise and flicker need to be thoroughly investigated before moving forward. I strongly oppose the construction of an industrial wind farm on Dan’s Mountain. Any circumvention of our zoning regulations will diminish existing property owners’ rights, thus establishing a dangerous precedence that other industrial developers will recognize and take full advantage of in the future.”
Four members of the Blough family, including Leslie Forsythe and Robert Blough, spoke in favor of the project.
“My father, Robert Blough, bought a large parcel on Dan’s Mountain in the late 1960s,” said Forsythe. “This property is 1,500 acres and is the largest portion of land in the Dan’s Mountain Wind Force project. Our father died in 2003. Since my father signed a lease with Wind Force in 2002 he was waiting and hoping for this wind project to be built. All four of us need the economic health the wind project will give us. We have complied with all state, federal and county laws throughout the 18-year process. This wind farm will be a huge benefit to the Blough family and Allegany County.”
Mark Schartiger, a resident of Bel Air, spoke in opposition.
“I own a residence and operate a business within line sight of this project,” he said. “Dan’s Mountain is a focal point of the county. The project will have a devastating effect on property values. It has been estimated that almost 55% of Allegany County residents live within 2.5 miles of the proposed project. A 500-foot turbine hanging over your property will not be conducive for resale.”
The PSC is accepting comment by letters until May 29. They should be addressed to Andrew S. Johnston, executive secretary, Maryland Public Service Commission, William Donald Schaefer Tower, 6 St. Paul St., 16th Floor, Baltimore, MD 21202. The letters must include the notation: Mail log 228173.
McLean said a final decision could come at an administrative hearing tentatively set for June 3.
Follow staff writer Greg Larry on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.