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Bent Mountain residents sue Roanoke County over wind farm rules

A group of Bent Mountain residents sued the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors today for setting policies that would regulate wind farms.

One company and 26 residents, including activists Eldon Karr and Steven Hanes, want the court to overturn the county’s wind ordinance, according to documents filed by Roanoke attorney John Fishwick Jr. in Roanoke County Circuit Court.

The lawsuit calls the supervisors’ actions and parts of the ordinance “clearly unreasonable, arbitrary or capricious” and says they don’t take into account “public health, safety, morals or general welfare” of county residents.

The lawsuit also says a section of the ordinance violates the Constitution because it takes residents’ properties without compensation. That claim directly relates to one of the most controversial parts of the ordinance, a 1,000-foot minimum distance that turbines must stand from neighboring homes.

That distance is 1,600 feet less than what the county first proposed. The residents say the change in distance, on which supervisors decided Sept. 13, didn’t provide county residents notice with a public hearing. The board held a public hearing on the ordinance and the initial distance, of a half-mile, Aug. 23.

Also, the lawsuit claims the board’s actions go above the authority it has been given via the Dillon Rule, which limits local governments to powers delegated by the state.

The residents claim that the policy will affect them because they live in sight of Poor Mountain. That’s where a Chicago company has leased land and plans to build a wind farm.

The company, Invenergy, has not yet asked the county for permits for the structures and still must clear Federal Aviation Administration regulation before it can pursue the project.

“The ordinance giving the green light to wind turbine development in Roanoke County is unreasonable and arbitrary,” Fishwick wrote a statement. “We will ask the court to stop its enforcement and declare it invalid.”

The supervisors passed the ordinance in September, with an opposing vote only from Windsor Hills District Supervisor Ed Elswick, who represents and lives in the Bent Mountain area.

Elswick this week asked the board to reconsider one piece of the ordinance: the sound-level limit on turbines, of 60 decibels when heard from the nearest property lines. The board expects to discuss the limit at its next meeting, Oct. 25.