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‘Restrictive’ zoning change rejected; Supervisors state wind energy support

MACHIPONGO – Members of the Northampton Board of Supervisors are united in their support for attracting the wind energy industry to the county.

A zoning text amendment on standards for wind energy was defeated on Tuesday in a 3-2 vote because of concerns that it was too restrictive.

“The intent of the Board of Supervisors is not to rewrite the ordinance but to make it more user-friendly for companies wanting to put in wind test facilities,” said Supervisor Willie Randall, board chairman, Wednesday. “We are trying to avoid roadblocks.”

Supervisors Randall, Oliver Bennett and Larry Trala voted against and Sam Long Jr. and Spencer Murray voted for Zoning Text Amendment 2011-09, which would include new definitions pertaining to wind energy facilities.

The Planning Commission unanimously recommended the board approve the zoning text amendment on Aug. 2.

“We are trying to get as much safe business to help the tax base as we can,” said Bennett, saying it “seems there is a lot here to turn them off.”

“My concern rises out of the perception of Northampton County as being very restrictive on these kinds of things historically,” said Long, saying he wanted to echo Murray and Bennett’s comments in looking for safe industries that will help grow our tax base and we “certainly don’t want to scare them off.”

“I feel it is too restrictive,” said Trala, expressing his concerns about the amendment in attracting businesses to the Shore.

“Studies have shown we have a unique position with respect to capturing wind energy and it is a major initiative of the state and something we definitely need to be a part of,” said Murray.

“It is restrictive,” said Sally McNeilan with Fugro Atlantic, in response to a question by Murray about the zoning text amendment, but she said it was “a great deal better” than it was on July 5.

Included in her remarks in response to board questions about the turbines was that this would be a larger turbine that is higher, which would reduce noise, and it is a small scale project with one or two turbines built at a time, with no more than 10 in the entire project.

Long’s motion to approve the text amendment was with the change in the amount in the shadow flicker performance standard, increasing the amount in the amendment from “in no event shall shadow flicker exceed 15 minutes per day” to 25 minutes per day, following discussions.

“There is a strong sentiment on the board to revisit this,” said Long on Wednesday.