If the Goochland Planning Commission has anything to say about it, the prospect of operating small wind turbines is not in the countys immediate future.
The panel did not recommend approval of an ordinance change that would have allowed the updated windmills in some zoning districts. Most of the commissioners agreed the expanding technology would not be economically feasible for single-family-owned homes in the Goochland area.
First of all, it came out at the meeting that the county’s elevation is not conducive to the high wind levels needed to generate power.
And County Planner Tom Coleman said his office had not received any requests for a permit to construct one of the monopoles.
The new ordinance would have allowed monopole structures up to 199 feet on private land in zoning districts A-1, A-2, F-C, M-1 and M-2.
Conditional use permits would be required and setbacks are required to be 1.5 times the distance of the height of the tower.
Commissioner Lowe Lunsford said the new ordinance was unnecessary and was “economic insanity.” Fellow commissioner Courtney Hyers agreed and said the use of monopoles could cause a threat to Goochland’s rural view shed.
Other members said there is little likelihood the technology in its current forms would have mass appeal, but said there was no harm in addressing the issue.
Coleman said the proposal was the result of the administration’s and staff’s desire to have ordinances in place when wind turbine requests are received.
In a presentation to the commission, Coleman said “wind and other forms of sustainable energy are increasing in popularity and some citizens want to be energy independent, increase their energy footprint and save money over a long term.”
Commissioner Ty Querry said he supported efforts to explore green energy sources, and said the cost of installing a unit is decreasing and will be available to homeowners through major retailers in the immediate future.
Even the commissioners who supported the measure had questions regarding the proposed height of the towers and the minimum acreage required to construct a turbine.
Other counties have allowed the units, but none have allowed the maximum heights suggested in the proposal.
“We certainly wouldn’t want them in any subdivisions,” Commissioner Bill Neal said. He also said the conditional use process would still give the county rights of refusal for projects that did not meet the criteria.
Lunsford moved for a denial of the recommendation and his co-members agreed. The measure moves forward to the Goochland County Board of Supervisors without the Planning Commission’s approval.
In another matter, staff sought an ordinance change that would extend the period the Planning Commission has to act on a proposal from 60 to 70 days.
That extra time would accommodate calendar irregularities that sometimes make it difficult for the panel to defer matters. Coleman said the ordinance change would “eliminate technical violations.”
The Virginia State Code allows up to 100 days for the action, and some commissioners thought the panel should take advantage of the time allowed.
Hyers urged her colleagues to consider extending the period to the maximum. “Why shouldn’t we go to the 100 days,” she said. “It doesn’t mean we have to take the 100 days, but should we not have the maximum in our ordinance consistent with what Virginia law permits.”
Coleman reminded the panel that the Board of Supervisors sent the proposal forward with the 70-day extension. The panel moved for recommendation of the change as presented.
Goochland County requested a conditional use permit allowing the construction of a communications tower adjacent to the Company 5 Firehouse in the courthouse area.
The new tower would complement a regional communications system and enhance emergency communications in the county.
Coleman said a community meeting was scheduled for later in the week to allow neighbors an opportunity to express their views on the project.
Some commissioners found it unusual that planning staff had not scheduled a community meeting before the application was considered.
“It seems to me the public meeting should have occurred before we met,” Neal said. “It’s not the right way to do things.”
“We acknowledge this hasn’t been handled the way it usually is,” Coleman replied. “The public does have the opportunity to comment prior to final decision on the application.”
A public hearing will be held when the Board of Supervisors considers the proposal at a future meeting.
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