Ordinance Concerns Delay Decision On Wind Turbine

OCEAN CITY – Once again, Jim Motsko’s attempts to install a small wind turbine on his downtown property have been extended due to the language written in the ordinance.

Back in August, the Ocean City Planning and Zoning Commission elected to extend the public hearing until certain questions were answered about the plan to build a wind turbine on property owned by Motsko, a local realtor and White Marlin Open founder and tournament director.

At that earlier hearing, opposition came from neighboring properties that were concerned with the sound level, view obstruction and decrease in property value.

Motsko’s legal counsel, Joseph Moore, and the projects engineer, J. Stacey Hart was present at that meeting to support Motsko. They argued that the custom-made wind turbine would be positioned toward the back of his property, 10 feet away from the bulkhead. That way it would be less invasive on the neighboring properties, which are 100 feet away.

Hart had explained that the custom built Slipstream wind turbine is a 1.9-kilowatt turbine, the smallest available, and he stated that he would be surprised if the sound level even reached 40 decibels.

The town’s ordinance allows wind turbines as long as the sound level does not exceed 55 decibels. In comparison, a household air conditioner creates a sound level of 70 decibels.

The concerned neighbors outweighed Motsko and his team that day, and the commission voted to extend the public hearing until the town could gather more information, including a sound decibel. On Wednesday, Motsko’s attorney, Moore, approached the commission once again.

“What has occurred is we have run into what I believe is a substantial legal impediment with respect to the matter at hand,” Moore said.

On Sept. 30, Moore wrote a letter to City Solicitor Guy Ayres because the code as written provides that the set back requirement for the wind turbine be 1.1 times the height of the wind turbine tower unless there is an easement granted by the adjacent property owner.

The adjacent property owner to where the wind turbine would be located on Motsko’s property would be the bay, which is controlled by the State of Maryland’s Division of Titled Wetlands.

Hart had contacted the state in respect to whether it would grant an easement because the bay is the adjacent property to the location of the proposed wind turbine. According to Moore, the response was the state would not grant an easement but the best thing to do is note that there is no permit required from the Maryland Department of Environment, Titled Wet Land Division because the structure was land ward.

Ayres responded that he did not believe that the state not requiring a permit equates to granting an easement. He suggested that the commission and the Mayor and City Council re-address the easement issue as it pertains to adjacent land.

Moore then proposed to the Planning and Zoning Commission to defer the hearing until time allows the planning staff to determine whether it would be beneficial to have a text change of the ordinance.

“I think everybody would agree that properties along the bay would be the most beneficial in having a wind turbine,” Moore said. “When I look at the proposed ordinance it does not relate to any determination with respect to the water’s of the bay…so we cannot comply with the code as written.”

In order to change the language of the ordinance, the planning staff would have to take it before the council. Moore suggested the text to be changed in the ordinance not just for Motsko’s sake, but also for all bayfront properties.

“It goes without saying you’re going to have an ordinance that is un-workable,” Moore said.