Windmill proposal wins approval

Balto. County zoning official allows couple to build structure

July 19, 2008|By Melissa Harris | Melissa Harris,Sun reporter

A Baltimore County zoning official has approved a couple's request to erect a windmill on their 59-acre farm in Phoenix as part of a plan to build a "green" home using renewable energy sources.

"After reviewing all of the evidence, I am convinced that ... the family should be permitted to forge new ground in the growing field of alternative, renewable energy," Deputy Zoning Commissioner Thomas H. Bostwick wrote in his order, dated Thursday and released yesterday. "On paper, the ... request is simply a request for variance, but the implications of the family's actions may well reflect a change in American attitudes regarding oil and alternative energy uses."

Barry and Urszula Antonelli are building a home that will use solar panels and a geothermal system for heating and cooling. They also plan to build a driveway of absorbent materials to reduce rainwater runoff.

The windmill, if constructed as planned, would be the first large-scale energy-producing windmill in the county. No regulations specifically govern the use of windmills their or construction.

Bostwick wrote that until the County Council writes rules on windmills, zoning officials should treat them as "accessory structures," as they would a request from a homeowner to build a shed.

Several neighbors complained to county officials that the 120-foot windmill would be a noisy eyesore and would pose a threat to birds. Moreover, they said, approving the windmill would set a precedent for the approval of more of them in quiet rural areas.

"Certainly, the protestants in this case raise a number of valid concerns and those concerns should continue to receive scrutiny as the county planning board investigates and makes findings and recommendations to the County Council for proposed legislation on the regulation of windmills going forward," Bostwick wrote.

Absent such rules, he concluded, the county should be "responsive to novel and innovative approaches" to energy production.

A call to the Antonellis' Monkton residence was not immediately returned yesterday afternoon.

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