Considering the mistakes made by neighboring Tazewell County, the Mercer County Commission would be wise to give ample consideration to a ridgeline zoning ordinance.
Tazewell County had no existing zoning ordinances in 2008 when Dominion and BP purchased 2,600 acres of land on East River Mountain for the purpose of developing a large-scale wind farm. The county Board of Supervisors subsequently found themselves locked in a 16-month long debate about whether or not to adopt a so-called ridgeline protection ordinance. The ordinance, eventually passed this past February on a 3-2 vote, essentially restricts the height of tall structure structures built along certain protected ridgelines. Had zoning been in place in 2008, the county could have had a say in the development and scope of the project.
Considering the close proximity of the proposed Bluestone River Wind Farm to the West Virginia state line, you would think Mercer County leaders would take notice. They apparently haven’t.
At the moment, Mercer County has no zoning ordinance or restrictions in place with the exception of an exotic entertainment ordinance. That means anyone could come into Mercer County, purchase property, and largely do as they choose without current zoning restrictions.
Joe Coburn, president of the Mercer County Commission, said the board has not had any real discussions about whether or not to create a ridgeline ordinance for Mercer County. Coburn added he wasn’t aware of any entity interested in building a wind turbine farm in Mercer County. As a result, Coburn said a ridgeline ordinance is not currently being considered.
Why repeat the same mistake made by Tazewell County. No one knew Dominion and BP were interested in building a large-scale wind farm in the region until they purchased property on East River Mountain. Shouldn’t the Mercer County Commission – regardless of its position on wind turbines – take a proactive approach and be prepared if and when a project developer comes knocking.
Coburn, along with fellow commissioner Jay Mills, say they want to hear from the citizens of Mercer County before discussing any such plans. That’s great. So why not a schedule a public hearing? And why not send out a questionnaire to the citizens of Mercer County asking if they do or don’t support a limited zoning proposal?
No one is asking the county commission to say yes or no to wind turbines. That is a decision that would have to be made if and when a project is ever proposed for Mercer County. A limited zoning ordinance would simply allow the county to have a say in the development of such a project if a wind turbine farm were ever to be proposed for Mercer County.
To simply say that the county isn’t going to discuss such an ordinance because a wind farm is currently not proposed doesn’t make a lot of sense. The Mercer County Commission should be proactive.
If the county does nothing, assuming that a wind turbine company won’t come knocking on the door, the commissioners will have made the same mistake that Tazewell County did. And we should learn from our mistakes.
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