Board Votes Down Wind Turbine

August 05, 2009|By Meredith Cohn | Meredith Cohn,

A Federal Hill woman seeking to become the first Baltimore resident with a wind turbine on her roof failed to win approval from city officials yesterday.

The effort by Marsha Vitow brought opposition from neighbors concerned about safety and aesthetics and confounded city officials, who work for a mayor with a "cleaner, greener" agenda but had to deal with the city codes now on the books. Vitow needed a variance to build above the 35-foot residential height limit but the law didn't allow for wind turbines.

"This will pave the way for a more progressive Baltimore," Vitow told the Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals, which voted 4 to 1 against the turbine.

David Tanner, executive director of the board, said the members had a long debate but decided wind turbines were not a legal exception. Tanner said city officials would have to address the issue as they rewrite decades-old zoning law this year or pass separate legislation allowing the turbines.

Vitow's contractors at Green Solutions of Maryland had argued that the turbines were allowed under the law. They also said they hired engineers to ensure the 300-pound, 8-foot-tall vertical axis turbine would be secure on a 100-year-old house and could not be seen from the street. It would make little noise and generate 20 percent to 40 percent of the home's energy.

But Vitow's immediate neighbors, who consider themselves eco-conscious, said a turbine is not appropriate for the city. Cindy Flacks said she bought her house in part because of the roof deck and thought the turbine would ruin the view. Patrice Davidson said she was worried about damaging their joint wall.

Other cities around the country and rural counties in Maryland allow turbines. Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties are considering them.

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