Ocean City Resident’s Wind Turbine Plan Meets Resistance

OCEAN CITY — Jim Motsko
has been trying to put a wind turbine on his downtown property for the better
part of two years, but it seems he will have to wait at least a little bit
longer before getting the green light to go “green.”

On Tuesday, the Planning
and Zoning Commission elected to extend a public hearing to determine the
conditional use of a 45-foot wind turbine that Motsko, a local realtor and
White Marlin Open founder and tournament director, has proposed to install on
his 6th Street property.

The commission was
hesitant to make any sort of decision since Motsko’s turbine would be the first
wind turbine in town since the Mayor and City Council passed a 2009 ordinance allowing
them as a conditional use in residential and commercial areas.

“I just don’t want to
allow this without more information, because I’d hate to see Jim [Motsko] put
this thing up and then we find out later that it is too loud, and we have to
make him take it down or stop running it,” said Commissioner Peck Miller. “I
think we just need some more information since this is such new ground for us.”

As was expected, the
apparent “rub” for the project came from neighboring property owners who
believed that a 45-foot turbine would block their bay views and create too much
noise.

“Everyone likes the idea
of going green, and although we support the idea of it, we don’t necessarily
want it to be right outside our window,” said Robert Kenney, who owns a
condominium next door to Motsko. “It’s really the uncertainty of what that
turbine would do in regards to noise, property values and, obviously, the
view.”

Motsko, his legal
counsel, Joseph Moore, and the project’s engineer J. Stacey Hart, argued that
the turbine was custom made and was positioned toward the back end of his
property, just a mere 10 feet from the bulkhead, in order to be less invasive
on the neighboring properties, which are just 100 feet away.

“The information you
have in front of you is for a Slipstream 3.7 wind turbine, and although the
turbine we are going to install is a Slipstream, we had it custom made to a 1.9
kilowatt turbine, which is one of the smallest they make, so I would be
surprised if this thing ever got above 40 decibels,” Hart said.

The town’s ordinance
requires that decibel levels created by wind turbines not exceed 55 decibels.
In comparison, air conditioner units create 70 decibels, and a casual
conversation with another person can create decibel levels of up to 60,
according to statistics.

Still, Kenney believes
that the turbine itself would be an obstruction and that even if the turbine
didn’t exceed 55 decibels, the sound it would create would be unable to be
ignored.

“From what I’ve
researched, the blades could create a sound like a vacuum cleaner, and who
wants to hear a vacuum cleaner running all day long,” said Kenney. “The other
thing is that there was so much conversation and uproar about putting these
things off the coast, but the council had no problem allowing them 100 feet
from someone’s window?”

Moore noted that the
turbine was allowed by conditional use, which means that there would have to be
a unique reason to deny this project since it meets town law.

“You can’t just deny
this project because someone doesn’t like that it’s going to be there,” said
Moore. “Substantial evidence would have to be brought forward and I don’t think
we’ve heard anything like that this evening.”

Motsko’s decision to
move the turbine back toward the bulkhead also created a new hurdle for the
project, as the state must now sign off on the project since the setback
intrudes on the state-owned Isle of Wight Bay.

“The state doesn’t
provide easements for such projects unless the applicant is a public utility,”
said Hart, “but I did speak to Joe Kincade at the Maryland Department of the
Environment (MDE) who said that we could acquire a ‘no-license’ permit in order
to get concurrence from the state.”

Motsko’s turbine is not
technically the first that’s been proposed in Ocean City since the new law went
into effect, but it would be the first to actually break ground.

The owners of the Marino
Cottage on 14th Street have been back and forth between the design
process and the approval process for a turbine off the Boardwalk.

Zoning Administrator
Blaine Smith said the turbine for the Marino Cottage is in the planning phase
and is seemingly “on hold” at this time.

Ironically, Motsko was
one of the biggest proponents and strongest voices pushing for the town to
create the ordinance that would allow turbines as a conditional use last year
and has been very outspoken in his desire to put one on his Edgewater Ave.
property.

Yet, it seems that he
will have to wait as long as 60 more days for town officials to gauge decibel
readings and compile further information for the worried neighbors.

“This is the first time
where I think I’d like to get more information in order to make a decision, so
I think we should just leave the hearing open until we get the information we
need,” Miller said.

 

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