Patrick County real estate owners responded by a vote of 3 to 1 in favor of a tall structures ordinance which would prohibit the construction of 400-foot-tall wind turbines on the county’s mountain ridges.
An official count of the surveys, which were mailed last fall to all owners of Patrick County real estate with their tax statements, was held by county officials Monday morning prior to the January meeting of the Patrick County Board of Supervisors.
The survey asked respondents if they supported a proposed ordinance banning the construction of structures over 100 feet tall, with the exception of telecommunications towers and church steeples.
Assistant County Administrator Mike Burnette told the supervisors that the treasurer’s office received a total of 4,857 responses to the survey out of approximately 14,500 surveys mailed.
There were 3,582 “yes” votes, or 73.7%, and 1,275 “no” votes, or 26.3%, Burnette said.
In response to the survey results, the board voted 4-1 to advertise the tall structures ordinance with the intent to adopt it at the February meeting. Blue Ridge District Supervisor Roger Martin cast the dissenting vote.
Peters Creek District Supervisor David Young, board chairman, said that when the board decided at the September meeting to send out the surveys, “four members said they would be bound by the outcome of the survey,” even though they were not legally obligated.
Young said he had received a large number of phone calls, “from Patrick County to Outer Mongolia,” comments from the group SOAR (Save Our Appalachian Ridges), and other contacts on the issue. The input was about 50-50, he said.
“We decided to let the general public have some sort of say–and caught ‘h’ with the way we did that,” Young said. He said he personally disagreed with prohibiting tall structures, but “I made a pledge to vote on the outcome of this and I won’t change.”
Scott Eutsler, a member of SOAR, said he was pleased with the survey results.
“Anyone in marketing would tell you that getting a response of 10% is remarkable, and we had a 33% response,” Eutsler said. “I think Patrick County has spoken and I ask the leaders of the county to vote in favor of the ordinance as it stands–keep the wind turbines out of Patrick County.”
David Stanley said he wanted “to thank everyone for worrying more about land values than our kids’ futures.”
“Patrick County has never been a leader or an innovator, and we get to keep that title,” Stanley said. He said he didn’t know whether windmills would work in Patrick County, but thought it was sad that residents wouldn’t get the chance to find out.
“We need other sources of energy and new thinking,” Stanley said.
Gary Barnard asked, “Why should the rest of the county dictate what the top of the mountain does?” Mountaintop residents pay the highest real estate taxes in the county, he said, and shouldn’t be told what they can do with their own land.
“What looks worse, a house with 10 acres cleared or windmills every quarter-mile? I’d just as soon see windmills,” Barnard said.
Nancy Stanley, who owns land on top of the mountain, said if anyone asked to put a windmill on her property, “they’d get a short answer.”
“Nobody wants to come look at stupid windmills,” Stanley said, adding that the turbines would affect everyone within sight of the mountains. “I applaud your standing up to the carpetbaggers and their collaborators and I hope you will support the will of the people,” she said.
Supervisor Martin said cell towers of 370 and 400 feet are being built in the mountain areas, and he thought it was discriminatory to ban one kind of tower and not another. He reiterated his opinion that a ban on tall structures is unconstitutional, and commended David Stanley and Gary Barnard for “taking a much wider view” of the issue.
“The Flat Earth Society wins again,” Martin said.
The board decided not to hold a public hearing, agreeing that there has been plenty of public comment since the issue arose last spring.
Mayo River District Supervisor Danny Foley made the motion that the board advertise the ordinance, minus the six-month “sunset clause” originally included, for adoption at the February meeting. Dan River District Supervisor Jonathan Large seconded the motion.
Before the vote, Martin offered an amendment that the board hold a public hearing, “to give the public a chance to know what’s being done.”
The amendment died for lack of a second. The main motion passed with Foley, Large, Young and Smith River District Supervisor Crystal Harris voting in favor.
By Nancy Lindsey
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