OCEAN CITY – Rick Meehan vetoed his first city ordinance as mayor of Ocean City this week, sending a message to the council that its stance on wind turbine usage in Ocean City was a bit too conservative.
In a rare occurrence in local government, Meehan flexed his veto power on the recent passage of the ordinance allowing wind turbines in Ocean City after one of the area’s most vocal proponents of the alternative energy conduits was finding it difficult to move forward with his planned project.
Jim Motsko, local realtor and founder of the White Marlin Open, had been pushing this issue for several months and watching it every step of the way, as it passed through the Planning and Zoning Commission, and then through Mayor and City Council.
The council’s final decision after the second reading of the ordinance removed the appeal process if there was a property owner that was finding it hard to meet the challenging setback rule.
"I’d like to see it go to the normal property setbacks, rather than 1.1 times the height of the turbine", said Motsko. "There was a slim possibility that I could have done it with the current setback rules, but it wouldn’t have been efficient enough to make the project worth it."
Motsko sent an email to Meehan pleading for reconsideration on the council’s recent decision, and his arguments may have been enough to sway Meehan to veto as the second-term mayor warned the council not to be too restrictive.
"Once we removed the appeal process with the zoning board, we took away any flexibility for the property owners that would want to practically utilize these turbines," said Meehan. "Everyone on the council wanted to move forward with this, but in the end, they were just too conservative."
Freestanding turbines would have to be placed 1.1 times the height of said turbine from the property line. Simply put, if Motsko wanted to put a 40-foot turbine on his downtown bayfront property, he would have to place it 44 feet from his property line.
Based on the urban layout of the Ocean City grid, especially in the downtown area, many have hinted that roof-mounted turbines might be the most realistic option for property owners who want to "go green."
"Actually, I would think you might see more freestanding turbines as some people may not want one on their houses," said Motsko, "but ideally, it would be great to design your house with these turbines as part of the design on your property, but I guess it depends on if the council decides to relax the rules."
Meehan hopes that the council will reconsider their initial precautions to conditional usage of turbines in residential R-1 and mobile home districts, citing his recommendation could make everyone happy.
"This will give the property owners the flexibility to plead their case before the Board of Zoning Appeals, but still gives the council the final say on this, as they made it apparent they wanted the final look on this very new issue," said Meehan. "I believe it will solve everyone’s concerns and still allow us to move forward."
Council President Joe Mitrecic said that the issue will be dealt with at Tuesday’s work session and said he understood why the mayor vetoed the ordinance, but was unsure if the council would have a change of heart.
"I don’t necessarily disagree with the mayor on this, but I couldn’t tell you one way or another how the council is going to go on this," he said.
Motsko hoped that the council would be “wise enough to reconsider their decision” and contested that the council’s main concern in this whole issue, which was uproar from neighboring residents, was perhaps over-dramatized.
"Initially, there may be some opposition," said Motsko "but once people thought through it, they’d realize that this is the right thing to do and (wind turbines) would be far less offensive than power lines in their neighborhoods."