by Joan Tupponce
Hundreds of Floyd County residents became concerned when word got around that wind farms might be built on the ridgelines of local mountains.
On Jan. 31, more than 40 people debated the merits of allowing wind-energy projects in the county in a two-hour public hearing before the Board of Supervisors. They are considering an ordinance that would prohibit construction of tall structures on ridgelines.
“The county doesn’t have any zoning ordinance or any kind of ordinance that would prohibit a facility such as a large, commercial-grade wind project,” says County Administrator Dan Campbell.
Residents learned about a possible wind-turbine farm in the county when one company considering the venture began talking with property owners and conducting site evaluations. “That’s when a large number of people became concerned,” Campbell says.
Some fear wind-energy projects would be noisy and hurt the county’s natural resources and wildlife. “They were also concerned about the devaluation of property,” Campbell says. “We received petitions with 400 or 500 signatures asking the county to look at ways to regulate those types of projects.”
The proposed ordinance would prohibit the construction of structures that are 40 feet in height on ridges with an elevation of 2,000 feet or more above sea level or 500 feet or more above the elevation of an adjacent valley floor. The draft proposal offers exceptions for a number of structures, including steeples, flagpoles, and water, radio, telecommunications and television towers.
A similar “ridgeline protection” ordinance was adopted in Tazewell County in 2010. Last fall, Roanoke County approved zoning guidelines requiring wind turbines to be at least 450 feet, or 110 percent of the turbine’s height, from the nearest property lines and at least 1,000 feet from any home. Some residents there, however, have mounted a court challenge, demanding more restrictions.
The matter is in a preliminary phase. “It’s being broadly considered,” Campbell says. “I wouldn’t say with certainty what way the county would go.”
At a meeting on Feb. 14, the administrator says, the board of supervisors decided to form a 10-member group to study the “pros and cons” of the proposed ordinance. Each of the five supervisors will propose two people for the group.
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