Following a motion by David Hutchins, the Carroll County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted Monday for County Attorney Jim Cornwell to develop a draft ordinance for review by January to protect the county’s ridgetops.
Windmills became a hot topic in Carroll County during an April 9 meeting when supervisor Bob Martin said a company from Texas was proposing to place windmills on Stoots Mountain. Multiple landowners have been approached by representatives of EDP Renewables/Horizon Wind Energy about a potential wind energy project, sparking much debate in Carroll County.
Since that time, the county held a public hearing in August regarding windmills and formed a committee to study them. After listening to a recommendation from the Windmill Committee and hearing comments from three citizens, Sulphur Springs District Supervisor David Hutchins made the motion for the board develop a draft ordinance for review by its January 2013 meeting.
With Stoots Mountain being in his district, Hutchins said he spoke to several people from that area at the Carroll County Agricultural Fair in August. None of them were interested in windmills. Hutchins said he thought the board needed to develop an ordinance that would stand up to scrutiny and be defensible, and also that would treat everyone fair.
He then made a motion for the county attorney to develop a draft ordinance for review by the board’s January meeting to protect the county’s ridgetops. Hutchins added that possibly Cornwell could have an ordinance draft ready by December for the board to sink its teeth into and digest before moving forward. Martin seconded the motion.
Cornwell said he would like a feeling from the board of whether they would like him to draft a regulatory ordinance or a prohibitory ordinance.
“I want to prohibit them,” Martin said of windmills.
When no other supervisor chimed in, Cornwell said it sounded like he had a consensus. The board then voted unanimously to approve Hutchins’ motion.
Citizen Rodger Jennings noted from the crowd that Cornwell has already written a similar type of ordinance for Floyd County. If it wouldn’t be a conflict of interest, Jennings suggested that Cornwell may already have something that addresses structures that affect communities.
“Actually it is to your economic benefit,” Cornwell said. “The only thing I see is we don’t have landuse controls, but we do have a statute. I’ll work it as best as I can.”
Following a meeting of the Windmill Committee on Thursday, Supervisor Joshua Hendrick delivered the board of supervisors the committee’s recommendation Monday night that led up to Hutchins’ motion.
“From all forms of public input received, more people have spoken out in opposition of a utility-scale windmill project in Carroll County than those who are in support,” Hendrick said. “Reasons for opposition to a utility-scale windmill project ranged from environmental impacts, landscape preservation, to potential health risks.”
Hendrick said information gathered has led the Windmill Committee to believe the largest benefit for the general public of Carroll County for hosting a utility-scale windmill project would be the monies collected through machine and tool taxes. Estimates of such monies have not been verified, however, Hendrick sad.
“The Windmill Committee is of the opinion that a utility-scale windmill project will not be overly beneficial to the general public of Carroll County; that a decision as to how to proceed be determined in a timely manner; and that the decision to be made contains elements that warrants complete involvement by the Board of Supervisors,” Hendrick said. “Therefore it is the recommendation of the Windmill Committee to the Board of Supervisors that the discussion of the future of utility-scale windmill projects be entertained and handled within a timely manner.”
Jennings, who presented the board with an 82-page packet of information on wind turbines, told the board he is even more strongly opposed to windmills than he was a month ago after doing research.
“My personal opinion is that wind energy development on Appalachian ridges carries great risk of environmental harm and very little potential for benefits,” Jennings sad. “Impact on birds and bats will be substantial. One bat would eat thousands of mosquitoes.”
Jennings said noise levels and the harm to real estate values are other reasons to think about prohibiting windmills.
“Loss of peaceful use of your land-studies have also shown livestock impacted by the turbines. There is lack of marketability of homes in the footprint of the turbines,” Jennings said. “Value losses up to two miles from the project range from 25 to 40 percent.”
Jennings said he is not fond of zoning or regulations. He feels that a person should be able to do whatever they wish on their own property with the exception of a quote he read from the Carroll County Comprehensive Plan.
“Zoning is intended to avoid disruptive land use patterns by preventing activities on one property from generating external effects that are detrimental to other properties.”
After hearing from citizens G.L. Quesenberry and Andy Jones, Dickson said he wanted to emphasize that the board wanted to have sufficient time to study windmills before making any decision. Martin said he is convinced there are not any good reasons to have windmills in Carroll County.
“The only reason it is feasible is because of government subsidies to put them in. I am just not in favor of it,” Martin said. “They won’t compete with Virginia Coal, they won’t compete even with oil. I just don’t see where it will do a whole lot nor is it practical.”