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Wind Turbines Scare Off Md. County

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Officials in Garrett County, Md. were previously on board with on-shore wind farms, such as the one shown here in Illinois. But now that some of them have been built, a new swath of lawmakers are changing the county's path.
Elizabeth Beers (http://www.flickr.com/photos/brixton/186597058/)
Officials in Garrett County, Md. were previously on board with on-shore wind farms, such as the one shown here in Illinois. But now that some of them have been built, a new swath of lawmakers are changing the county's path.

Future wind projects in Western Maryland may be on hold for the next few years. Garrett County, Md. has some of the state's best locations for on-shore wind power, and there are two big wind operations there now. But wind turbines have long been a source of contention, and the appetite for more projects is dwindling. 

"This was a really hot topic," says Lamont Pagenhardt, the county's administrator. "There were meetings, and there was screaming and yelling and letters to the editor and it got pretty nasty." 

For more than a decade, the county's political leaders supported wind farms, but that's changed. "As the turbines actually went up, I think opinion changed, public opinion as far as the view shed and the turbines actually being here," says Pagenhardt.

The county's commissioners, elected last year, have sent letters to wind developers operating in the county, including Constellation Energy, saying that they've had enough. They cite noise, proximity, and dropping property values among other complaints. 

The county doesn't actually have authority to block wind projects, but that could change. A spokesperson for Constellation says it doesn't have plans for future projects but that in general such large investments require cooperation from local government.

Opinions among county residents remain divided, Pagenhardt says, because taxes from wind turbines contribute to almost half of the county's personal property and public utility tax revenue.

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