SMYRNA – After a public comment meeting Wednesday with the County Planning Commission, it seems many Down East residents agree there is enough open land in Carteret that utility-scale wind turbines don’t need to be in residential areas.
The planning commission held its third and last public comment meeting in the gymnasium of Smyrna Elementary School, where more than 30 county residents, most from Down East communities, showed up to listen or voice their opinions on the county’s developing ordinance on tall structures, including wind turbines and communication towers.
Chairman Harry Archer noted the planning commission was still a ways off from recommending a proposed ordinance to the County Board of Commissioners and said staff would be using public comments to help develop the regulations.
“We make decisions with the citizens of Carteret County well embedded in our minds and we will develop an ordinance of which we can be proud,” he said.
Mr. Archer said he wished he could promise the ordinance would be ironclad in its original state but added that ordinances are “continual working documents” that have to be revisited.
“But we will cross as many T’s and dot as many I’s as we possibly can,” he said.
While some at the meeting said they opposed wind turbines in the county because they would take away from the county’s aesthetic beauty and would simply be dangerous in an area known for heavy winds, others felt the county had some areas that would be appropriate for large-scale turbines.
Catherine Elkins of Gloucester said she supported the work done on the ordinance so far and was happy it wasn’t being designed around the wind farm being proposed for 33 acres near Golden Farm Road in Bettie.
That project, known as Golden Wind Farm, would consist of three 1.5-megawatt turbines, each standing about 330 feet tall with the highest reach of the rotating blades.
The project sparked much debate across the county and prompted county commissioners to enact a nine-month moratorium to allow staff time to develop an ordinance. The moratorium expires in November.
Carteret is a big county, Ms. Elkin said, and the ordinance shouldn’t seek to limit wind energy entirely.
“We need to keep our options open for all our citizens,” she said.
Davis resident Ed Pond said he thought the ordinance shouldn’t focus so much on limiting the height of wind turbines but should instead enable wind energy and diffuse the objections to them.
“We have plots of property in this county that are enormous in size,” including Open Ground Farm and the sounds he said.
Stephanie Mischovich, a resident of Golden Farm Road, said turbine height shouldn’t be restricted to 500 feet or less, as is currently in the draft ordinance.
The wind energy industry is learning that for a lower wind speed class, like Carteret falls into, it would take turbines of more than 2 megawatts and taller than 500 feet to be cost effective and efficient, she said.
Mrs. Mischovich has attended several county meetings on the issue and has said previously that while she supports wind energy, she does not support wind farms in residential areas, including the project near Golden Farm Road.
“The 500-foot limit will prove to be problematic in the future for wind farms to be cost effective,” she said.
Dick Barber of Gloucester said he was concerned with the way waivers for setback requirements are essentially language for easements on properties adjacent to a wind energy project.
The draft ordinance states, “property owners may waive the setback requirements for occupied buildings on both the subject property and/or adjacent properties by signing a waiver that sets forth the applicable setback provisions and applicable changes.”
The waiver would notify affected property owners of the setback requirements and how the wind energy facility would be out of compliance and would be recorded in the County Register of Deeds Office.
Large wind energy corporations could easily afford to offer lots of money to adjacent property owners for these waivers – which could allow them the opportunity to take advantage of county residents.
“I think it’s inappropriate to have the ability for landowners to be offered several million dollars by corporations to buy waivers,” Mr. Barber said.
Charles Renda Jr., Otway resident and vice chairman of the Responsible Citizens for Responsible Siting group, said there were two sciences at work behind wind energy – the technical, mechanical science into how turbines work; and the medical science into how turbines affect people living around them.
While the mechanical experts may think 1 to 2 feet times the height of the turbine may be a sufficient setback, health experts recommend 1- to 1.5-mile setbacks to protect people from the affects of noise and vibrations of the turbines, Mr. Renda said.
“Open Ground Farm is quite capable of having several turbines with a mile setback,” he said, adding that Weyerhaeuser may also have the same amount of space.
Mrs. Mischovich noted the Croatan National Forest may also be a good site and said the N.C. Department of Agriculture, which handles federal forest land, often manages mixed uses for national forests for things like lumber, mining and sometimes energy sources.
Ernie Filep, Gloucester resident and president of the Responsible Citizens for Responsible Siting group, agreed that setbacks of a mile or more should be required for utility-scale wind turbines.
Additionally, he said noise readings for wind farms required in the ordinance should be taken by professionals not affiliated with wind industry corporations and that the ordinance should also require the removal of the concrete foundation when a wind turbine is taken down.
Mr. Filep, as well as Mr. Renda, have also participated in several county meetings and public comment sessions. The Responsible Citizens for Responsible Siting group was formed shortly after the Golden Wind Farm was proposed. According to Mr. Renda, the group does not oppose wind energy but supports the responsible siting of wind farm projects.
Following public comments, Chairman Archer reminded the crowd that although the proposed Golden Wind Farm project may have brought about the moratorium and the pending ordinance, it would have been just a matter of time before the county would have been forced to deal with the issue of wind energy anyway due to Senate Bill 3.
Last year, the state legislature passed Senate Bill 3 requiring the state’s utility companies to generate 12.5 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2020.
This requirement will likely put pressure on utility companies to utilize alternative energy sources, such as wind energy, which could lead to the construction of more wind farms across the state.
27 June 2008
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