OCEAN CITY – Mayor Rick Meehan thought that the council had passed an ordinance that had no “practical use”, so the elected officials decided to make all wind turbines a “conditional use” in Ocean City.
After Meehan vetoed the city ordinance that would allow wind turbines on Ocean City properties, the City Council voted 5-1, with Jim Hall in opposition and Mary Knight absent, to make all wind turbines first go through the Board of Zoning Appeals, a public hearing and then Mayor and Council.
“After I thought about this decision, I realized that we may have eliminated some sites that are very good ones for windmills because there is no flexibility in their ability to get a variance or some relief from the defined setbacks,” said Meehan, “so I went ahead and I vetoed the ordinance.”
Meehan’s recommendation was to make wind turbines a conditional use in R-1 and Mobile Home districts, which were the districts with the most stringent guidelines.
“This would satisfy everyone’s concerns, it gives the property owner the right to go before the Planning and Zoning Commission, it does set forth that it can’t exceed the setbacks, and the Mayor and Council would have the final say in the approval, which is what I think everyone was looking for,” Meehan said.
The council on the other hand, was still a bit hesitant on how some property owners would react to a freestanding wind turbine being constructed by a neighbor.
“I am cautious because if a neighbor put up a big monstrosity near the bulkhead, my view or a person’s view would be impaired forever, said Councilman Jim Hall. “This is going to effect bayfront property owners that paid for an unobstructed view.”
Once again, local resident Jim Motsko’s property in downtown Ocean City came up for discussion as his case would be what the mayor called a “unique setting” that would be essentially thwarted from installing a turbine if an appeal process was not placed back into the city ordinance.
Motsko, who says he will wait until the “I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed before moving forward with his hopes to install a wind turbine on his property, was pleased with the council’s final decision to make turbines a conditional use.
“I was never opposed to the regular 1.1 setback, but rather, the setback on the bayfront was my issue,” said Motsko, “but this is good news for myself and for other people like me who have been waiting to move forward with this.”
Though all the members on the council have expressed interest in green technologies at one time or another, the general sentiment was to proceed with extreme caution because this is such a new venture for the town.
Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith suggested making everything a conditional use so they could make arguments about actual sites, rather than hypothetical ones.
“Until you get more comfortable with the application of the site specifics, this would be a way to monitor it, rather than cite examples that may not happen,” said Smith. “To speculate on existing properties would still be risky from a procedural standard if we don’t make it conditional use.”
The decision still must go through the two required readings of this new ordinance, and if history repeats itself on this issue, more changes could be on the way.
Meehan says this decision should make it fair on everyone.
“This makes the viable sites for windmills at least able to make their case, and if planning and zoning or mayor and council don’t agree, then it doesn’t happen, said Meehan, “but don’t pass an ordinance that really prohibits them from being constructed, you either want them or you don’t.”