Sparks Glencoe Community Planning Council
 

News from The Sparks-Glencoe Community Planning Council

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MD AG Gansler Visits Gunpowder>>
Important Hearing and Meeting Dates>>
Wind Turbine Comments>>
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Current News>>


Attorney General Gansler to Visit the Gunpowder River

 MD Atty Gen Gansler Visits Gunpowder River

 

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler will visit the Gunpowder River on Wednesday, October 27, 2010, the third stop of his 2010 audit of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

As part of the Audit, Attorney General Gansler will visit several sites along the Gunpowder River and its tributaries including a visit to Loch Raven Reservoir and will receive briefings on the rich history, progress and current challenges facing the river. The Gunpowder River Audit visit will conclude with a Town Hall Meeting at Goucher College at 4:30 p.m. in the Batza Room on the 4th floor of the Athenaeum, 1021 Dulaney Valley Road in Towson. The Town Hall meeting is an opportunity for citizens to share their concerns about the health of the Gunpowder River and any other environmental issues in the community.

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Important Hearing and Meeting Dates

Wind tower hearings are open to the public, and will be held at the Jefferson Building, 105 W. Chesapeake Ave in Towson.  Letters can also be emailed to the Planning Board at bweaver@baltimorecountymd.gov or mailed to Baltimore County Office of Planning, 105 W. Chesapeake Ave, Towson, MD 21204. Current regulations proposed by the County would allow a 150 foot tall wind turbine as of right, meaning that no hearing would be held.  Since these towers would be as tall or taller than cell phone towers, it would be appropriate to regulate them in a somewhat similar manner.  Cell towers must go through several rounds of hearings.  We think one hearing should be held prior to erection of a wind turbine to allow neighbors and surrounding community members to express any concerns about the location of a turbine near them.

The public hearing for proposed cell towers on Belfast Road will be continued at 9 am on October 14th, also at 105 W. Chesapeake.  Letters can be mailed to Mr. William Wiseman, Baltimore County Zoning Commissioner, Jefferson Building, 105 W. Chesapeake Ave, Room 104, Towson, MD 21204.

The Board of Appeals hearing on the CZMP rezoning request was held on Sept. 15, 9 am. This is a request to upzone a parcel included in Sparks-Glencoe's successful petition to downzone property in the 2008 CZMP cycle.  SGCPC raised concerns that the property is part of an area appropriate for Resource Preservation zoning, because of its proximity to Prettyboy Reservoir, the Gunpowder Falls, and Gunpowder Falls State Park.  Current zoning upholds the County's Master Plan goals of protecting environmental resources and restricting development in watershed areas.  The request would undermine the integrity of the comprehensive zoning process.

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Wind Turbine Comments

Comments on Amendments to the Baltimore County Zoning Regulations Regarding Wind Turbines

The Sparks-Glencoe Community Planning Council is dedicated to preserving the natural resources and rural character of northern Baltimore County.  Obtaining electricity through wind power has both benefits and disadvantages.  Environmentally, wind turbines help by supplying “clean” energy, but they are harmful to birds and bats.  Financially, turbines may help the owner by lowering his energy expense, but they may hurt his neighbors by detracting from the value of their property.  Other negative effects of turbines, including aesthetics, shadowing, noise, and safety concerns, can lessen the neighbors’ enjoyment of their property. The rural character of our area would be marred by a proliferation of these industrial-looking towers.  The proposed amendments to the County zoning regulations do not adequately protect the community from the negative consequences of wind turbines.  

Most importantly, wind turbines should not be permitted as of right in a rural conservation zone.  A special exception hearing should be held to provide community members with the opportunity to express their concerns about a project, and to determine whether the turbine could be built in a way that would minimize the harmful impact on the surrounding community.  The County’s Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management should also certify, as part of the hearing process, that the location of a proposed turbine would not endanger wildlife, or otherwise harm the environment.

 A special exception hearing would allow concerns such as noise, shadowing, and potential safety hazards, to be addressed.  Rather than specifying a minimum lot size which guarantees a right to build a turbine, a special exception hearing could ascertain the proximity of neighbors to the proposed site, and it could be determined whether and where a turbine could be built that would not adversely affect the neighbors.  It is conceivable that someone who owns one acre in a remote location would not disturb any neighbors by erecting a wind turbine on his property, but someone with 25 acres who wants to put a turbine near his property’s edge would disturb a neighbor next door.  It would be better to take such considerations into account during a hearing process than to attempt to set one standard for all situations.  During the hearing, the turbine manufacturer’s recommendations for safety issues and other operating information should be produced by the property owner to ensure that minimum setbacks and other standards are followed. Safety considerations and noise levels will vary with turbine models; rather than specifying one setback for all cases, the requirements of the various models can be taken into account during the hearing.

The same level of scrutiny should be applied to wind turbine proposals as is applied to proposals to build cell towers.  Both wind turbines and cell towers have an industrial appearance that does not blend in with the rural landscape.  While cell towers may directly benefit the surrounding community, individually owned wind turbines would provide electric power only to the owner.  Cell towers are required to go through several hearings prior to approval.  It would be inconsistent and inappropriate to allow wind turbines to be erected with no hearing process whatsoever.

A 150-foot tower would alter the character of a rural area; it would loom over neighboring properties and create an eyesore. Members of our community have gone to great lengths to protect the natural beauty of the area.  Some have participated in programs funded by the government to preserve their property in its natural condition. It would be inconsistent to allow such an industrial type of intrusion into an area that was deemed worthy of publicly funded protection.

In sum, wind turbines may be a helpful alternative energy source.  However, one person’s right to pursue such options should not detract from his neighbor’s enjoyment of his property.  Stricter control is needed to protect the rural character of northern Baltimore County and the interests of the surrounding community. 

Respectfully submitted,
The Sparks-Glencoe Community Planning Council

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Sparks-Glencoe Community Planning Council

PO Box 937
Sparks, MD 21152
Email: info@sgcpc.org

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