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The Royal Farms proposal to build a gas station and store on Mt. Carmel Road in Hereford is again before the Baltimore County Board of Appeals for further hearings, on March 27, 2017, in the Jefferson Building, 105 W. Chesapeake Ave.,Towson, MD, Room 206, beginning at 10 am.

The Obrecht development of 79 townhouses in Hunt Valley, on York Road at Fila Way, is moving through the development process.

Councilman Todd Huff paved the way for this development by granting Obrecht the zoning they requested in last year’s Comprehensive Zoning Map Process. Many of us in the community asked Mr. Huff not to change the zoning, just as we had asked our previous Councilman, Mr. McIntire, during the 2 preceding CZMP cycles. Over one thousand local residents signed a petition, people spoke out against it at public hearings, and Broadmead residents invited Mr. Huff to their home to ask him not to change the zoning. There are many reasons why the townhouse development does not fit in at that location:

  • Water quality will be threatened
    • This site is steeply sloped with a stream at the bottom, and the Loch Raven Reservoir is very close by.
    • Both the stream and the Reservoir are likely to be degraded by erosion and runoff during construction.
    • After construction, stormwater runoff from all the additional impervious surfaces, including the townhouses, parking lots, roads, and sidewalks, will degrade the quality of the drinking water in the Reservoir and the health of the stream.
  • A bad traffic situation will be made worse
    • Hundreds of additional car trips will squeeze onto this very congested part of York Road.
    • Broadmead residents already have a very difficult time leaving their home.
  • It sets a bad precedent
    • There are several other large pieces of commercially zoned land nearby; their owners could decide to request residential zoning and the rural area will no longer be rural.
  • Services are already overtaxed
    • The schools are crowded, the police, fire, and ambulance services are overburdened.

Unfortunately, although he had stated that he was not going to change the zoning Mr. McIntire had established, Mr. Huff granted Obrecht’s request and now Obrecht is plowing ahead through the County development process.

A Development Plan Conference is scheduled for
Wednesday July 24, 9 am, Room 123,
111 W. Chesapeake Ave., Towson, MD 21204.

County agencies provide comments on the proposed development plan to the developer at this conference. These comments are also submitted to the administrative judge on the case.

A Hearing Officer’s Hearing is scheduled for
August 15-16, 10 am,
105 W. Chesapeake Ave., Towson, MD 21204.

Although Councilman Huff’s zoning decision gives Obrecht the go-ahead to build this town house development, it is still possible to affect some aspects of the development, for instance:

  • Designating where traffic will enter and exit the development to minimize extra congestion on this extremely overburdened stretch of York Road.
  • Requiring state-of-the-art techniques to reduce erosion and storm water runoff into the stream at the bottom of the steep hill, and into Loch Raven, and to keep additional storm water off of York Road.
  • Designing the development so as to minimize the change in the character of the area.
  • Make the design more attractive from York Road, for instance by having the houses face York Road, rather than backing up to it.
  • Requiring landscaping to buffer the view from York Road.
  • Requiring open space to be set aside for the use of the residents, such as a playground or hiking trails through the woods, and not allowing a fee to be paid instead.
  • Minimizing the impact of spot lights and street lighting on neighbors.

Sparks-Glencoe intends to participate in the development process to attempt to reduce the negative consequences of this ill-placed development. Your involvement is critical to the success of this effort: come to the hearings, make a donation, and talk to your neighbors about it. Help determine the character of your community.

Contact us: Info@sgcpc.org ; Donations


Dear North County Neighbors,

Those who have lived in the north county for a while will not be surprised to learn that the Sparks-Glencoe Community Planning Council has filed petitions for rezoning during the Comprehensive Zoning Map Process that takes place every four years. Thousands of acres of north county land have been downzoned by the county government over the last couple of decades in response to petitions filed by our organization and others in the north county. You probably enjoy the fruits of those efforts as you admire the long stretches of greenery that set northern Baltimore County apart from nearby areas that have seen intensive development.

We decide which land to include in our petitions by studying GIS maps compiled by North County Preservation, which are based on information from the State Department of Natural Resources and Baltimore County agencies. We read Baltimore County’s Master Plan and consider whether the current zoning upholds the goals of the Master Plan. For instance, the Master Plan states that growth and development must be managed sustainably in order to protect resources providing for the basic needs of all citizens, including local food production and high quality water supply. It states that there are places where development should not occur, such as agricultural properties, and places near drinking water supplies and other land with environmental resources. We use the GIS database to identify land containing these resources, and then consider whether the development allowed by the land’s current zoning would be detrimental to the resources.

Much of the land that Sparks-Glencoe has included in our petitions contains rivers and streams that ultimately empty into the Loch Raven Reservoir, a water supply system that is already under federal orders to reduce phosphorus. By reducing the density of future development near waterways flowing into the reservoir, the amount of phosphorus being added into the Reservoir will be reduced, as will other threats to water quality, such as sodium and chlorides.

Some of the land included in our zoning petitions is wooded. Trees serve many environmental purposes, including protecting water quality, cleaning the air, controlling flood damage, and providing wildlife habitat. Efforts to protect forests are enhanced by Resource Preservation zoning which we have suggested.

Baltimore County’s zoning methodology is to place large blocks of land in the same zoning category. This prevents incompatible uses from being close together. In some cases, the Resource Preservation zoning we have requested has no effect on a given piece of property, because that property has no more development potential. The land is still included in our petition in order to achieve zoning that is comprehensive.

We recognize that some landowners disagree with our opinion– they are entitled to explain to the county that they want to keep the development rights afforded by their current zoning. Hopefully, landowners’ sense of stewardship will lead them to support Resource Preservation zoning to protect the resources on their land for their own enjoyment and for the well-being of the larger community. As Baltimore County’s Master Plan says, “Reducing and mitigating negative impacts on natural resources and the environment is crucial to the long-term success of any community. Clean air and water is essential for all living beings to survive and flourish.”

The Board of Directors of the Sparks-Glencoe Community Planning Council

It’s upon us again: the Comprehensive Zoning Map Process. The CZMP occurs every four years and allows any citizen (individual, contract purchaser, community organization, County Councilman) to request a zoning change on any property in the County. Our organization has filed three issues to right zoning wrongs that were imposed on the North County during the last CZMP.

These wrongs occurred during the administration of Third District Councilman Todd Huff – despite the fact that Baltimore County’s Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability (formerly DEPRM) recommended otherwise, and despite the fact that he ran on a platform that promised not to disturb what his predecessor had accomplished. Former Councilman Todd Huff chose to upzone three large parcels of land that were, and remain, environmentally sensitive, partially forested and contain multiple streams and tributaries flowing into the Loch Raven Reservoir. Mr. Huff was roundly defeated in the last election.

CZMP 2016 parcel 1

It’s upon us again: the Comprehensive Zoning Map Process. The CZMP occurs every four years and allows any citizen (individual, contract purchaser, community organization, County Councilman) to request a zoning change on any property in the County. Our organization has filed three issues to right zoning wrongs that were imposed on the North County during the last CZMP.

These wrongs occurred during the administration of Third District Councilman Todd Huff – despite the fact that Baltimore County’s Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability (formerly DEPRM) recommended otherwise, and despite the fact that he ran on a platform that promised not to disturb what his predecessor had accomplished. Former Councilman Todd Huff chose to upzone three large parcels of land that were, and remain, environmentally sensitive, partially forested and contain multiple streams and tributaries flowing into the Loch Raven Reservoir. Mr. Huff was roundly defeated in the last election.

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CZMP 2016 parcel 2

It’s upon us again: the Comprehensive Zoning Map Process. The CZMP occurs every four years and allows any citizen (individual, contract purchaser, community organization, County Councilman) to request a zoning change on any property in the County. Our organization has filed three issues to right zoning wrongs that were imposed on the North County during the last CZMP.

These wrongs occurred during the administration of Third District Councilman Todd Huff – despite the fact that Baltimore County’s Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability (formerly DEPRM) recommended otherwise, and despite the fact that he ran on a platform that promised not to disturb what his predecessor had accomplished. Former Councilman Todd Huff chose to upzone three large parcels of land that were, and remain, environmentally sensitive, partially forested and contain multiple streams and tributaries flowing into the Loch Raven Reservoir. Mr. Huff was roundly defeated in the last election.

CZMP 2016 parcel 3

It’s upon us again: the Comprehensive Zoning Map Process. The CZMP occurs every four years and allows any citizen (individual, contract purchaser, community organization, County Councilman) to request a zoning change on any property in the County. Our organization has filed three issues to right zoning wrongs that were imposed on the North County during the last CZMP.

These wrongs occurred during the administration of Third District Councilman Todd Huff – despite the fact that Baltimore County’s Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability (formerly DEPRM) recommended otherwise, and despite the fact that he ran on a platform that promised not to disturb what his predecessor had accomplished. Former Councilman Todd Huff chose to upzone three large parcels of land that were, and remain, environmentally sensitive, partially forested and contain multiple streams and tributaries flowing into the Loch Raven Reservoir. Mr. Huff was roundly defeated in the last election.

While SGCPC is not seeking to downzone any other property in its territory, the organization will contend with properties that request an upzoning.

Another intrusion into the rural atmosphere of Hereford may be coming our way soon. Royal Farms is proposing to build a new store and gas station on Mt. Carmel Road, on the field where the Hereford Fall Festivals have traditionally been held. On January 29, 2014, the Administrative Law Judge granted the Company’s requests for illuminated signs, a fuel service station, and a convenience store/ carry-out restaurant with 5,125 square feet, well over the 1,500 square feet limit permitted by zoning regulations, and a variance request for a wall-mounted sign of 33 square feet, exceeding the 8 square foot size limit. That decision is being appealed by several parties,including Graul’s and SGCPC.

Several residents expressed their concerns with this new development at a Hereford Community Association meeting onJanuary14atSummitManor.Among the concerns were the additional traffic the store would attract on to Mt. Carmel Road, the impact the store’s water consumption might have on local wells, the incompatibility of the store’s design with the rural character of the area, potential contamination of surrounding properties and waterways by gasoline running off the surface of the gas station and the possibility of a gas leak. State Delegate Kach pointed out that Royal Farms has been fined for gas leaks in Maryland.

With plans to be open 24/7, the gas station and store will draw large numbers of travelers from I-83, causing congestion on Mt. Carmel Road. The potential for increased crime is of concern as well, especially in the late night hours.

It is important to keep in mind that County zoning regulations specify that the Commercial Rural zoning that overlays this property is intended to provide opportunities for shopping and services that are needed by the rural residential and agricultural population and tourists, and that the provision of potable water and sewerage should not have an adverse effect on the environment and neighboring uses. Since Hereford already has a gas station, two convenience stores, and a grocery store, this facility will not be serving an existing need.

There are also questions about the adequacy of the water supply. At the meeting in Hereford, Company representatives estimated that they would use 900 gallons of water a day on average and up to 1200 gallons on peak days. However, according to the County’s Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability, Royal Farms indicated that 1506 gallons per day will be the maximum consumption, but noted that that figure appeared to be an average rather than a maximum, and that another Royal Farm store averaged 1,862 gallons per day. The Company must demonstrate that the demands of the store will not jeopardize the water resources relied on by the surrounding community.

In addition to adequacy of water supplies, the proposed gas station raises the specter of contamination of the water supply. One only has to look as far as Jacksonville to know that the threat of a leak is very real and catastrophic. The County’s environmental protection department noted “significant concerns for drinking water quality” based on the bedrock aquifer system beneath the area and the proximity of existing well water supplies, and pointed out recent instances of groundwater contamination in the area. In our comments, SGCPC recommended that monitoring wells be drilled to ensure that any leakage is detected quickly before the harm becomes extensive. The hearing judge did not discuss this request, but stated that he was convinced by the testimony of Company representatives regarding safeguards and procedures to prevent leaks. The appellate process provides another opportunity to seek additional protection from the potential damage of a gasoline leak.

Before the gas station and store are authorized, it is critical to ensure that they comply with the Hereford Plan’s vision of growth “which protects and enhances the unique character of the town and is also environmentally responsible.” We might look forward to enjoying some of Royal Farms’ fried chicken, but we want to make sure the price isn’t too high.

The need for modern communication technology has prompted Oldfields School to propose the placement of a cell tower on its Glencoe Road campus. At our February meeting, Verizon representatives explained that the tower would be 150 feet tall and would be located on a hill towards the back of the school’s property near its riding stables. The plan is to construct a facade to resemble a silo, similar to the cell tower on Belfast Road near I-83. The Oldfields’ tower, however, would be considerably taller than the one on Belfast Road, which is 87 feet tall.

Community members attending the meeting expressed disappointment that the natural beauty of the area would be marred with an unsightly tower. Oldfields representatives expressed concern for their neighbors’ views, and a willingness to consider other approaches to solving their needs. Questions regarding alternate locations for the tower could not be answered at that time, but Verizon agreed to make its engineers available at another meeting. We will send an email notice of this meeting, so if you’re interested in attending, make sure we have your address. Send to info@sgcpc.org. (We do not share email addresses!)

After the meeting, a task force to advise Oldfields was formed by Monkton resident John Hawks who is also trustee and past Chairman of the Board of Directors at Oldfields. The task force includes four neighbors in the immediate area. We hope a solution will be found to satisfy Oldfields’ needs without imposing an unsightly burden on the community.

Tom Obrecht, owner of 16.5 acres on York Road at Fila Way, tried for many years to change the zoning on his land from manufacturing to residential. Rebuffed several times by former Councilman McIntire, he finally achieved his goal in 2012, when Councilman Todd Huff granted his request. Even though more than a thousand people signed a petition opposing the zoning change, Mr. Huff authorized the new DR 10.5 zoning, which permits as many as 172 townhouses on this site.

That zoning change ignored Baltimore County’s Master Plan policy of maintaining its manufacturing sites in order to promote economic growth by providing jobs and contributing revenues to County coffers. Instead, residents will be sending children to over-crowded Sparks school, and requiring services such as trash and snow removal, police, fire and ambulance services. In short, a revenue producer has been converted to a revenue user.

When Obrecht filed a development plan for this site last year, it seemed like a bad development would be a fete accompli. However, by joining with surrounding community members, SGCPC was able to retain legal and professional expertise to scrutinize the plan to see how improvements could be made. Using an equitable solution approach to correct some of the more egregious faults, we believe we made the best out of a bad situation.

Because of these efforts, the townhouses have been moved farther back from York Road, allowing a greater natural buffering of trees and vegetation. This will protect the view from York Road and help to maintain the rural character of the area. In addition, many of the houses that had been oriented with their backs facing York Road have been turned around to face the road. This new design resulted in a reduction of the total number of townhouses in the development from 79 to 73.

Additional modifications to the original plan include landscaping improvements and a commitment to low emission lighting that is compliant with Dark Sky standards.

One of the largest concerns raised by this development is the potential for runoff to contaminate and flood the Western Run River. The steep slopes on this construction site magnify the threat. Broadmead residents, who live downstream of this development site, were particularly concerned about potential flooding, recalling the extensive damage caused by recent storms.

Through negotiations, we were able to see significant improvement to stormwater management. After we asked why stringent state regulations were not being followed, the plans were withdrawn and modified. Now there will be much more sophisticated environmental site design measures installed throughout the development. These measures will allow rain to be absorbed into the ground quickly, before gathering volume and speed and dumping sediment and pollutants into the River.

And wildlife may also benefit. Studies show that fish are threatened when impervious surfaces increase. By implementing measures that allow rainwater to infiltrate into the ground rather than pick up heat and contaminants from the pavement, we are hopeful that trout will continue to survive in Western Run.

It’s hard to claim a victory when a townhouse development has been approved in our rural community. But given the zoning change granted by Mr. Huff, there were limited options for challenges. Because of our involvement, the views, the rural character, and the environmental resources in the area will be better protected, and that’s a good way to define success. Thank you to all our friends who supported this effort—your support paid off!

Have you been wondering how your stormwater management fees are being spent? Here is one way, and it’s aimed to benefit the homeowner and comply with the State’s mandate to clean up the Chesapeake Bay: Baltimore County plans to reforest hundreds of acres of land over the next several years and is interested in working with landowners who want to convert open acreage to woodland cover. Rural reforestation projects are FREE to property owners and include planting design, installation of County-purchased trees, and maintenance for a three year period.

Over the past few centuries, Baltimore County has lost much of its forest cover to agriculture and development. Forests are needed to help keep the Bay clean. They slow runoff, filter water for drinking and wildlife, and also help clean the air. Reforestation is one of the most inexpensive and efficient ways to reduce polluted stormwater runoff. A mature oak can intercept about 8,000 gallons of rainfall a year; likewise, a forest of 100 can intercept 800,000 gallons per year. This is nature at work, lessening the damage storms create by greatly reducing runoff and erosion.

In addition to environmental benefits, trees provide economic benefits to property owners. They increase property value, help lower summer cooling costs, break the winter winds to lower heating costs and provide food and habitat for wildlife. Trees also provide a very popular homeowner incentive by reducing costly mowing expenses. So while money may not grow on trees, your property’s value sure does.

How does it work? It begins with a site assessment by a project staff member who visits your property to look for good planting areas to ensure that conditions are favorable to tree survival. Then a planting plan is created in accordance with the County’s guidelines. Native trees are selected based on their ecosystem functions, mature size, range, safety and aesthetics. Project staff will work with landowners to incorporate suggestions and preferences as long as those species meet the selection criteria.

Next, trees are planted, complete with stakes and shelter, and then maintained by County contractors for 3 years. Maintenance may include seasonal mowing, vine and invasive species suppression, stake and shelter upkeep, watering during times of heavy drought, and the use of pesticides, herbicides and/or rodenticides. After 3 years, to ensure long term survival of the forest project, the County will monitor and maintain the area as needed.

Baltimore County is especially interested in partnering with landowners in reforestation projects of one or more acres of open space but will consider smaller areas.

If you are interested, please contact one of the following project staff members: Carrie Oberholtzer at 410-887-5684 or Katie Coolahan at 410-887-5825.

May 30, 2013, seems a long way off. Yet the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and the US Army Corps of Engineers (CORPS) have refused since then to reissue a public notice for wetlands and waterways mitigation and a water quality certification for the looming Columbia Gas Transmission MB-Line Extension project, a 21.1 mile, 303 acre natural gas pipeline project that will impact waterways and residences from Owings Mills to Rutledge, Maryland.

At the heart of the matter is Gunpowder RIVERKEEPER’s (GRK) assertion that the agencies failed to disclose that 39 of 70 waterways crossed by the Columbia Gas Transmission MB-line are drinking water supply streams. While this information was clearly presented in the Environmental Assessment that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved, somehow the agencies charged with the joint permit that certifies the mitigation and water quality left this vital information out of the public notice that should have informed people along the line that the extent of the real impacts would include drinking water supply streams.

Equally discouraging is that on October 22, 2013, GRK – with 18 nonprofits including SGCPC and representing 15,000 Maryland residents – asked the agencies again to include drinking water impacts and a completed mitigation plan in a reissued public notice to properly engage residents in a federal regulatory action. As of this writing, the agencies have chosen not to respond to this request.

GRK is considering an appeal in Federal District Court in DC because the FERC certificate issuance happened prior to the local agencies weighing in on wetland and water quality impacts. The certificate allows Columbia Gas the ability to start eminent domain proceedings on residents that do not willfully sign easement agreements. Another more localized appeal on the joint permit is also being considered by GRK based on the lack of information in the original public notice that characterized all 70 waterways merely as trout waters.

The County continues to approve growth along the York Road corridor in Loveton/Highlands, exacerbating traffic congestion and eliminating options for improvements. Each project is viewed in isolation – the cumulative impact of individual developments is never discussed.

Delegate Kach detailed this situation before the State Highway Administration, but our County representatives had not included this area in their request for highway projects, so SHA did not consider it. Expect the mess to get worse: the Loveton/ Highlands complex is only about half built out.

For more information, contact dpeake@sha.state.md.us.

Maryland created the Smart Growth program to direct new growth away from rural areas and into more urban areas with existing infrastructure to support the growth.  A new study has found that the program did little to prevent suburban sprawl.

Study Calls Maryland Smart Growth A Flop
By Lisa Rein, The Washington Post

An innovative policy to fight suburban sprawl catapulted Maryland into the national spotlight a decade ago and became then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening’s principal legacy.   Read More>>

That our reservoir system was impaired? The beautiful Gunpowder Falls River system which winds it way from Prettyboy Reservoir to Loch Raven Reservoir tracking the NCR trail has phosphorous levels that are too high and must be reduced. The Maryland Department of Environment has declared the Prettyboy and Loch Raven Reservoirs are impaired by 50% and in violation of the Federal Clean Water Act.

When development occurs, there is more storm water runoff flowing from increased impervious surfaces such as rooftops, driveways, and roads.  This causes increased sedimentation in the Gunpowder and its tributaries.  The sedimentation carries phosphorus from development into the Gunpowder and ultimately into the Loch Raven Reservoir.  Phosphorus from residential development comes from three sources:

lawn fertilizers
pet wastes
improperly maintained septic systems

Protecting land in the watershed from additional development will reduce the growth of pollutants and help protect these vital water supplies.

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.

Download The Flyer (PDF)>>

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.

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