Critical Areas Rules Slow Wind Turbine Installation - Southern Maryland Headline News

Critical Areas Rules Slow Wind Turbine Installation




Richard Johnson, of Valley Lee, stands with his son Russell next to parts to build his wind turbine. The state’s critical area commission recently said he could proceed after initially expressing concerns over the project. (Photo: Guy Leonard)
Richard Johnson, of Valley Lee, stands with his son Russell next to parts to build his wind turbine. The state’s critical area commission recently said he could proceed after initially expressing concerns over the project. (Photo: Guy Leonard)

By Guy Leonard, County Times

HOLLYWOOD, Md.—Last year Rich Johnson of Valley Lee was one of the key county residents who pushed for a zoning ordinance that would allow him to put up a wind turbine on his property to produce his own electricity.

By December the new rule had passed and Johnson was ready to go, that was until he ran into the state’s Chesapeake Bay Critical Areas Commission.

Johnson said that in mid-February he was told he needed to have an additional variance to install the device; at the cost of $550 just to wait six months for a hearing on that variance, to get it past critical area regulations.

“County planning and zoning did very well,” Johnson said of the latest obstacle to his project. “The only problem was we had was with the Critical Areas Commission and Annapolis dictating to the county what to do.”

But just last week, the state seemed to relent, Johnson said, when staff at the county’s Department of Land Use and Growth Management informed him that he could proceed with his project as long as he planted some trees and shrubs on his land.

The Critical Area Commission oversees development and land use in areas that are near the shore line of the Chesapeake Bay in an effort to preserve those areas from erosion and degredation.

But the commission has come under some criticism here in the county has being too rigid in its administration, some county commissioners have even said they know of homeowners who are worried about having stumps removed from their land for fear of running afoul of the stringent regulations.

Johnson said he was concerned for others who might want to venture out on their own and try their hand at energy independence.

“What about the next guy?” Johnson asked. “Do we have to go through this B.S. again?

“They talk out of one side of their mouth about green energy… then when you try and do it you run into all these barriers.”

Ren Serey, executive director of the Critical Areas Commission did not return calls seeking comment for this article.

Commissioner Lawrence D. Jarboe (R-Golden Beach) said that when both he and Johnson attended a meeting of the Maryland Energy Administration in Annapolis that advocates for clean running, green energy alternatives they were somewhat shocked to hear that a group that was mandated to protect the environment was seemingly hindering an alternative energy project.

“There needs to be a complete review of the CAC down the line,” Jarboe said. “What’s wrong with this picture?”

Johnson told The County Times that he will have to plant one tree in his yard on Heron Creek to comply with critical areas concerns, even though he had no trees to clear to set up his wind turbine.

Commissioner President Francis Jack Russell (D-St. George’s Island) said an April meeting of the CAC should clear things up.

“We’ll have refinement of this at the CAC in April as the last hurdle to installing these,” he said.

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