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Dealing with the consequences of folly  

If there’s anyone left in Highland who still believes in our county supervisors’ power to control wind utility development, this is your wake up call.

If there’s anyone left in Highland who still believes in our county supervisors’
power to control wind utility development, this is your wake up call.

State lawmakers are already proposing to take that power away. If a Virginia Beach
senator gets his energy policy bill through the General Assembly as drafted, Highland’s
board will be stripped of any land use controls it has, or plans to implement, with
regard to 400-foot wind towers. All the suggestions for wind plant overlays or conditions
on permits locally would be rendered null and void.

The draft legislation that outlines goals for Virginia energy usage and ways to
implement them was reviewed last week by a special subcommittee. The most controversial
is the document’s call for identifying economically feasible sites for wind
plants. Once those places get earmarked as good spots for projects, their landowners
can erect utilities without any variances or permits from county officials, and without
any regard for Highland’s comprehensive land use plan.

Though many predicted this serious undermining of local control over the past
several years, Highland supervisors, especially chairman Jerry Rexrode, continued
to try to convince constituents it would never happen. The county can fight in Richmond
for whatever it needs, Rexrode said. The county can put plenty of conditions
on utility permits that prevent a proliferation of them, he assured us.

He was wrong.

This draft bill is nowhere near a vote in the legislature yet, and it’s sure to meet
with strong resistance from all local governments in Virginia, but you can bet something
akin to it will eventually emerge. It may be a watered-down version, but when
it comes, Highland will be at the top of the list as a great place for wind plants. And
there won’t be much, if anything, supervisors can do to stop them.

The proposal is depressing not just because it places such vital decisions into the
hands of state officials who have never set foot in Highland, but because it would
have been far easier to defend ourselves had our board turned down HNWD’s permit
request to begin with, instead of breaking all the rules on the books to allow it.

The overwhelming opposition here to descecrating our unique environment would
have carried a whole lot more weight in Richmond if our board had supported rather
than rejected the majority sentiment. Instead, lawmakers have the “official” assurance
from our leadership that it will accept this kind of development, and residents
and landowners opposed to such projects are left to explain why their voices were
unheard.

Highland New Wind Development’s proposal is but the first of many coming our
way. If our board intends to continue to discount and discredit the majority view, all
three members should resign and let a newly elected board in tune with its constituents
fight to save the county from the rampant exploitation on its doorstep.

Anne Adams

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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