The Currituck Planning Board won’t decide until next month whether wind energy turbines will be allowed in all county zoning districts.
Officials from several wind turbine companies, including one headquartered in Spain and another from Maryland, met with the board Tuesday to discuss a proposed amendment to the county’s zoning ordinance.
East Coast Windpower has asked that the county allow wind energy turbines in all zoning districts. Under the proposal, no turbine could be taller than 60 feet but there would be no setback restrictions on where turbines could be placed.
Ben Woody, Currituck’s planning director, said given the growing demand for alternative energy, county officials want to approach the wind turbine issue with an open mind. However, East Coast Windpower’s proposed amendment is too vague and open-ended, he said.
For that reason, the county planning staff has developed an alternative amendment, Woody said. That amendment also would allow wind turbines in all zoning districts but would require property owners to obtain a special use permit.
The alternative amendment would also establish setback and height requirements for both small residential lots and large vacant lots.
Dean Karico, of East Coast Windpower, disagreed with establishing setback requirements. He also said property owners should be allowed to construct a wind tower by right and not be required to get a special use permit.
Planning Board members had several concerns about the proposal.
What could be done, they asked, to protect adjacent property owners from turbines knocked down during storms. They also had concerns about turbine noise and “shadow flicker” – the shadows caused by a turbine’s rotating blades.
But Karico said noise from a turbine is no louder than a refrigerator and the blades of a small turbine would not create shadow flicker. He also said turbines are made to withstand 140-mph winds.
Resident Ronnie Cooper told the board that Karico had approached him about installing wind turbines and that he supports the idea.
Eddie Yountz said he, too, is considering putting up a turbine on his property. But he also noted that he doesn’t have any close neighbors.
Two other residents, Herb Robbins and Ray Griggs urged the board to be cautious before approving any amendment allowing wind turbines. Both said the amendment needed to include setback a requirement.
Griggs cautioned that property owners with turbines will need to obtain additional homeowners insurance which could offset the money they’re saving on electric bills.
Woody said Tuesday’s meeting was productive, and had raised a number of issues that need more study..
One issue county officials want to study more closely is Dominion Power’s wind turbine program. The company will be the one awarding energy credits to wind turbine owners and purchasing wind energy from businesses, he said.
The county wants to know more about Dominion’s requirements and recommendations before proceeding with the amendment, he said.
By Brenda Kleman
16 November 2007
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