In the hot seat before a packed Winchester Hall filled with well over 200 citizens, PATH was thoroughly trounced! The Board began by remarking on both the quantity and quality of testimony submitted in the case in the more than 25 hours of hearings continued over three separate occasions. The citizens and opposition groups have much to be proud of in this instance, so congratulations to all of you!
Board member Carol Sepe lead the discussion by stating that she had seven pages of findings that the proposed substation was inconsistent with applicable ordinance, and began to throw the book at them. Sepe said that the substation was not consistent with the surrounding neighborhood. Although PATH claimed that the two transmission lines currently traversing the site were "consistent" with the proposed substation, Sepe disagreed. The proposed substation would have been a "significant difference" from transmission lines.
Board member John Clapp weighed in with his finding that the substation was not harmonious, orderly or consistent with Frederick County's Comprehensive Plan, which states that proposed uses "shall have an appearance consistent with the surrounding neighborhood". He remarked that the code says "surrounding neighborhood", and not consistent with the subject property itself, which houses the transmission lines. "Surrounding" the proposed substation site are over 1300 homes, not transmission lines and substations. Good point, Mr. Clapp! He also detailed other negative impacts such as property values, noise and EMF on the significant number of people living in close proximity.
A discussion of PATH's claims that similar substations were sited in dense areas ensued. Clapp noted that one of the comps submitted by PATH was on the U.S.-Canadian border in the state of Maine, a desolate area. Lara Westdorp, playing the heavy last night, brought up the San Jose substation, which is surrounded by dense development, however she never considered which came first -- the substation or the development.
The Board discussed EMF, with Westdorp saying that if the scientists studying it can't come to a consensus, she's certainly not going to sit up there and do it and therefore the applicant has demonstrated that, "it will not endanger the health & safety", comparing that to the difference between "not guilty" and "innocent". Clapp and Sepe disagreed.
The Board also discussed whether the notice provision was complied with. Was notice sent to landowners just nine days before the September hearing reasonable?
Westdorp, at one point, claimed that we, "can't paint them as willing not to be good neighbors", which got a huge laugh from the crowd. Seriously? PATH doesn't give a damn about the neighborhoods, they only care about the money to be made! It's all about running over the citizens, filling their "trophy case" of opposition souvenirs much like the the native Americans collected scalps (you sick b@stards! -- the "trophy case" is an actual claim made by PATH attorney Randy Palmer), and MONEY.
The Schultz v. Pritts case was thoroughly discussed and the general gist of that is -- does the proposed use have a more adverse effect here than elsewhere in an agricultural zone? Clapp thought so and mentioned the proposed substation's "intense operation", health and safety risks and industrial appearance. It was also noted that the footprint of the substation was much smaller when initially proposed in 2008 and had recently been enlarged to the current 42-acre proposal.
Just about the time the crowd was on the verge of mutiny, Clapp made a motion to deny the application on the grounds that the substation did not appear consistent, with adverse effects in this particular location greater than at another location. A vote was taken, with Clapp and Sepe voting for the motion to deny the application and Westdorp stating that she did not agree with the entire motion and therefore voted against it, resulting in a 2-1 decision to deny. A written decision will be issued.
This decision now pits Frederick County against the Maryland Public Service Commission, who has claimed that they have jurisdiction over siting of the substation in their review of PATH's application to them. Frederick County claims that they have jurisdiction by benefit of local zoning regulations, a power given to them by the Maryland legislature. This will be an interesting court battle and could tie PATH up for a long, long time.
The crowd erupted in cheers and applause, while the relatively small contingent of PATH representatives in attendance (Randy Palmer, Mike Hosier, Todd Meyers and the two Saul Ewing attorneys) tried to disappear into the floor. If there was an escape hatch or back door, I'm sure they would have used it. Unfortunately for them, they had to make the walk of shame out the front door.
We spent a couple of hours celebrating at our favorite little brewery and were soon handed this brief bit of breaking news that made us laugh really hard. "Allegheny Energy representatives said they would await the written decision by the board before issuing an official response." Was that because PR schmuck Todd Meyers was sitting across the bar crying in his beer instead of making statements?
Here are collected newslinks:
Frederick News Post
As you find them, please send them along.