A plea for the ethics board to restore trust

CSC SafeDr. Randy George of Marion Station presented the following remarks Feb. 11 to the County Ethics Commission as it begins to review financial disclosure forms submitted by the County Commissioners.

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“I’m have been very troubled by what’s going on with regards to this wind ordinance. The underlying reason, I think, why you’re here today is that wind ordinance.

“The drafting of an ordinance was commissioned by the County Commissioners to the Planning and Zoning Commission, and I think this whole discussion centers around the prestige of office, around the use of that. And that’s the underlying theme that I hear through it all.

“You are at some disadvantage, because you were not, like many of us, sitting through these long Planning and Zoning Commission meetings. Maybe that’s an advantage. But we do have, and the county does have audio/visual records of every bit of it, it’s out there.

“When Pioneer Green, we all know who that is, came into the county, it had very clear requirements. It was never vague about those requirements for what it had to have in order to be here. It needed to plant a series of turbines in an agricultural-residential area, because we are closely tied geographically to each other that didn’t leave a lot of area. People live quite close to each other even though it’s an agricultural region.

“Pioneer Green wanted to place these turbines 700 feet away from people. They finally conceded that it would be a 1,000 feet, otherwise they would have to walk. The height had to be a certain height, and if it were to be restricted, they would have to walk. If the sound was allowed to be too loud, they would have to walk, they required it to be in the range of airports and train sound levels permitted by the state of Maryland, otherwise they would not stay.

“This company had paid for its own impact study for the county, and there’s never been another one done. This impact study in general states there’s no problem with the turbines being here. In general our county regulations allow buildings, industries, activities, that allow industry to come into the county, but to also to protect the people and the process. It has to be a balanced procedure. And in this particular case, having to do with this particular wind turbine process, many of us believe that was not done.

“The Planning and Zoning Commission required, depended upon and listened to Pioneer Green for guidance about how this turbine ordinance was to be drawn up. There were two commissioners, one was the head of the commission, Dr. Mary Fleury, and another one Tammy Truitt, who actually has a family member who stood to gain by the presence of turbines, who raised flags about this particular process, showing that there was risk, risk having to do with sound, health, property values, and both of these ladies presented volumes of information to the commission from other places, from other studies, showing that there were risks, and even how to mitigate those risks simply by placing turbines farther away from people as had been done elsewhere. It’s called setback, the distance between people and the turbine.

“Mr. Pusey, Mr. Porter, Mr. Taylor, all presented alternative wording to this ordinance to try to make it easier for the commission to arrive at a balance. They even presented other ordinances from other areas to use as models. All of these presentations, and you must look to the record since you weren’t there, were publicly dismissed, ignored, voted down.

“We think if you had been there you would have been disappointed with the process. Maybe embarrassed, maybe appalled.

“The final draft followed the Pioneer Green script. With that it was logical for those of us who were watching it, and there were many, to question what was going on here. What led to such a lopsided result, favoring a commercial interest, and apparently disallowing safety interest for the community?

“Because of that, several of us went into the public record, to try and see if there were some kind of conflict of interest. Well, we were looking for relationships between the leaseholders, the landholders who would be getting money from Pioneer Green, and our county officials. These findings, which are really preliminary since the search is ongoing, were presented in a letter that you have now, that was sent on Jan. 9. And I won’t go through that. We’re sorry that this has come to this point. Very sorry. We’re sorry that you even have to be here. We’re glad you are.

“If you should find, this is our plea, that there has been any tainting of that ordinance that was being drawn up, any corruption of it, by any conflict of interest, by any apparent conflict of interest, we request that you disallow that ordinance, that you just scrap it, that you advise that it be scrapped at the very least. And the reason is because trust in this local government has been lost to some extent of late. And by your actions, you are able to restore it to some extent. I thank you.”

– The next meeting of the Ethics Commission is Feb. 18.

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