BEAUFORT— The County Planning Commission got the first peek Wednesday at a budding ordinance that will eventually regulate wind turbines and other similar tall structures.
While no action was taken and no discussion was held on the matter during the board’s special meeting in the boardroom of the administration building, the board was given what has been drafted so far for the wind energy portion of the Tall Structures Ordinance to take home and study.
Assistant Planning Director Jim Jennings said the planning department had used the wind ordinance from Currituck County as a base to start from but that it had been changed quite a bit.
“We’ve tried to make some reasonable changes, modifications, to make it (Currituck’s ordianance) more reasonable for Carteret County,” he told the planning commission.
A nine-month moratorium on wind turbines and other tall structures was enacted in March by the County Board of Commissioners in response to opposition to three utility-scale wind turbines being proposed for 33 acres on Golden Farm Road in the Down East community of Bettie. Commissioners approved the moratorium to allow the County Planning Department time to build an ordinance.
The draft defines small or large systems and utility-scale wind facilities separately and addresses the permit application process, setbacks, installation and design and decommissioning or abandonment. Noise and shadow flicker impacts are still under construction in the wind energy portion of the ordinance, as are articles regarding communications towers or other tall structures.
The ordinance establishes different setbacks for different types, or scales, of wind turbines. A small, roof-mounted system can be up to 60 feet tall and placed on any lot of record with no setback restrictions, while a small, non-roof-mounted system can be 75 feet tall on a minimum lot size of 15,000 square feet with a setback of 1.5 feet for each foot of height from any property line, private or public right of way or access easement.
A large system can be up to 199 feet tall on a minimum lot size of 5 acres with a setback of 2 feet for each foot of height, and a utility-scale system can reach 500 feet on a minimum of 25 acres with a setback of 2.5 feet for each foot of height.
Stephanie Miscovich of Golden Farm Road told The News-Times she liked the changes that had been made so far from the Currituck ordinance but would like to see the setbacks increased for utility-scale turbines.
“I think that (setback) should be more,” she said after the meeting. “It’s not based on hurricane-prone regions.”
Ms. Miscovich also spoke during a public comment session during the meeting and said she hoped regulations for utility-scale wind projects wouldn’t hinder small residential projects for individual homes.
She also noted that educational information provided to the county by the Coastal Wind Working Group had failed to make any mention of weather conditions partial to Carteret County – namely hurricanes.
Ernie Filep, a Gloucester resident with property adjacent to the proposed wind farm site in Bettie, said he recently drove to Pennsylvania to check out three utility-scale wind farms and handed photos of what he saw, as well as a transcript of tape recordings, to planning commission members.
He said while he was there, he saw shattered turbines, most likely from wind or lightning, and even one unit that had oil and grease running down the side of the tower.
Mr. Filep also played a tape he recorded at one of the wind farms. While he talks to the landowner, a heavy clank sound can be heard clearly in the background.
“The owner said he was waiting for a part to come in to fix that (noise) – but it was still running,” Mr. Filep said. “What about the other people that have to listen to that in the meantime?”
Having heard some debate as to whether turbines create vibrations, he said he placed his hands on the tower and pedestal of some of the units, and as he thought, he could feel the unit vibrate.
“We’re looking for responsible siting,” Mr. Filep, who is chairman of the recently formed Responsible Citizens for Responsible Energy group, said. “It certainly doesn’t have to be in a person’s backyard.”
Following the public comment session, planning commission Chairman Harry Archer said the board and the planning department would likely use the full time of the moratorium to ensure the ordinance is right.
“We’re going to be very thorough in everything we do in this ordinance,” he said.
By Lori Wynn
18 April 2008
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