County councilman says no to wind turbines in residential neighborhoods

Planning Commission's recommendation would allow one per acre

January 30, 2010|By Arthur Hirsch

As the Baltimore County Council prepares to consider new regulations for wind turbines in residential neighborhoods, at least one member is strongly opposed to the idea.

The Planning Board voted unanimously recently to recommend allowing one wind turbine no taller than 60 feet per one-acre property. The recommendation - which came in response to a council request for new regulations - would set rules for residential areas only. The Planning Board said it did not intend to limit the prospects for wind energy in industrial and commercial zones.

The proposal - a seven-page staff and subcommittee report that also included rules on wind turbine noise and appearance - has yet to be put on the agenda for the seven-member council. Most members contacted said they had not seen it.

Council member T. Bryan McIntire said he had not reviewed the proposal, but he stood "adamantly opposed to the use of windmills in the north county."

McIntire represents the northern and largely rural 3rd District, where much of the opposition to residential wind turbines has emerged. His reasons echo the arguments made by his constituents at Planning Board hearings: He said studies show few areas in the county where there's enough wind to power even a private home, and it was not worth spoiling the scenery. He said he did not want the "bucolic views to be interrupted by these hideous windmills."

While farms in that part of the county have used windmills for generations, McIntire said "they weren't nearly as tall" as the proposed regulations allow.

He said those who are concerned about using alternative energy can buy power from utilities generating power from "wind farms out west. You don't have to build a windmill to be green."

Council member Stephen G. Samuel Moxley of the Catonsville area said he wanted to hear more about the proposal but added, "I would be reluctant to allow wind turbines in residential communities."

Council members Kenneth N. Oliver of District 4, Joseph Bartenfelder of District 6 and John Olszewski of District 7 said they would not comment until they had read the board's report.

Until now, the county has treated wind turbines as "accessory structures" - that is, because they are not defined in the zoning regulations, they have been allowable as special exceptions, with the approval of the zoning commissioner - but there has hardly been a rush for applications. The only one to be approved so far came from Barry Antonelli of Phoenix, in McIntire's district. That application helped prompt the council to request the zoning proposals in July 2008.

Antonelli's request for a 120-foot turbine is held up pending an appeal filed by his neighbors, which in turn hinges on the outcome of the zoning amendments that will be considered by the council.

About a third of the state's counties, including Carroll, Frederick, Montgomery and Allegany, have changed their zoning rules to accommodate wind energy systems.

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