Wind power program withdrawn before Balto. Co. Council vote

Opponents say bill did not keep turbines away from residential areas

August 02, 2010|By Arthur Hirsch, The Baltimore Sun

A pilot wind power program for Baltimore County was withdrawn Monday before a County Council vote after community groups complained the measure failed to protect residential areas from nearby turbines.

"I didn't have the support for it," District 5 Councilman Vincent Gardina, who sponsored the measure, said after the council session Monday night. He called it "bad timing on my part" in introducing the bill during an election season.

"There was a lot of opposition that came in. People weren't paying attention" to the emergence of the bill during a work session last month, he said. Once it was reported that the council was to vote on the measure, "there was a lot of this NIMBY stuff," he said, using the initials for "Not In My Backyard."

Ruth Goldstein, president of the Greater Midfield Association and an outspoken opponent of this and a previous wind turbine proposal, said "we're ecstatic about this, although we think this is the end of the beginning," and would not put the issue to rest.

She said the Greater Greenspring Association and the Greater Patapsco Community Association also opposed the measure, which was discussed at a work session last month but not given the several hearings and study that had been devoted to the previous proposal. That earlier measure covering wind turbines in residential areas emerged from a planning staff study conducted at the council's request and was recommended by the Planning Board but never taken up in a bill.

Gardina said his bill was "a compromise" version of the previous proposal and created only a pilot five-year program and changed the districts where turbines would be allowed. The measure dealt with turbines in areas used for commercial farming, for institutions such as schools and churches, and manufacturing.

He said he hoped the council would take up wind power again, although he doubted he would be involved, because he will leave the council this year after five terms.

"We should try to do everything we can to support alternative energy," he said, decrying the country's dependence on oil.

Goldstein and others who opposed the bills insist they support alternative energy, but they say the proposals discussed so far could create eyesores and noise in residential neighborhoods, degrading property values. She said the withdrawn bill protected only residential areas near manufacturing zones, not those near commercial farms or institutions.

Also Monday night, the council again voted down a move to require cell phone towers in rural areas to be disguised as trees. The measure introduced by District 3 Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, representing the rural northern county, failed on 4-3 vote with Joseph Bartenfelder of District 6 and Kevin Kamenetz of District 2 — both of whom are running for the Democratic nomination for county executive –—supporting McIntire. The measure was opposed by Gardina and council members Stephen G. Samuel Moxley, John Olszewski Sr. and Kenneth Oliver.

Once the vote was taken, McIntire got up from his chair and walked out of the session, a gesture he later described as "a statement of disgust."

He said he has introduced versions of the measure three or four times since late last year, each time refining it to be sure it complies with federal laws governing cell towers. He said he suspected going into the meeting Monday night that he did not have the votes to pass it. Asked why not, he said, "I think money talks, that's as far as I want to go."

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