Spurred by the debate over proposed wind generators, Floyd County Supervisors Tuesday – by unanimous vote—authorized county attorney Jim Cornwell to draw up a draft ordinance to regulate development on ridgelines.
The action came towards the end of a third-straight monthly meeting of the county board where discussion of the proposed wind turbines dominated the public discussion period and occupied more than an hour of the supervisors’ time.
All but one of the speakers at Tuesday’s meeting opposed construction of wind generators in Floyd County. A wind turbine firm of 15 or more of 450-to-490 foot-tall structures is proposed along Wills Ridge and energy companies are exploring other potential sites in the county.
Cornwell said creation and passage of an ordinance to regulate construction and development along ridge lines did not automatically ban construction of wind generators but would give the county the tools it needs to control such actions.
Speakers at Tuesday’s meeting cited environmental concerns, potential damage to the county’s water supply and destruction of the area’s “viewshed” along with other reasons to stop the wind generator proposal.
Two opponents of the wind generators asked for extra time on the agenda to cite reasons to prohibit construction of the turbine farms.
Dave Dixon of Little River District said his research into the effect of wind generators on property values showed Floyd County home owners would suffer at least a $101 million net loss in real estate values.
Dixon said the promise of construction jobs for Floyd County workers was overstated because the expertise for such development would come from out-of-area firms. He also cited reports that showed electricity rates in areas where wind generator farms were constructed went up, not down.
The promise of increased revenue, he said, is also overstated because most of the revenue goes to the state, not the county.
Tourism, he said, would drop at least 20 percent and those traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway would bypass Floyd County if wind generators appeared on Wills Ridge and other ridge lines.
“We need to protect Floyd County,” Dixon said.
Kathleen Ingoldsby of the Courthouse District also requested extra time on the agenda and presented supervisors with statistics on environment damage by wind generator construction and said the giant turbines kill birds and other wildlife that are part of the ecological balance of an area.
Turbines, she said, are particularly dangerous to bats that fly at night and help with inset and mosquito control.
“A GAO study confirmed that bat mortality was greatest in the Appalachian Mountains,” Ingoldsby said. “During a six-week study period up to 38 bats were killed per turbine, as compared to 0 – 4.3 elsewhere. This is of concern, as insect control of forest and farm insect control would be at risk. Bats are nature’s pesticide, consuming as many as 500 insects in one hour, or nearly 3,000 insects in one night. If just one turbine here kills say, conservatively, 75 bats in a year, that means 51 million uneaten bugs. And bats save farmers about $74 per acre, according to a report in Science magazine.”
In Indiana, she said, a federal court ordered a wind turbine operation must shut down the turbines at night to protect birds.
Ingoldsby also warned the board of the dangers of attempts to repeal Virginia’s ban on uranium mining.
“The prospect of uranium mining, new methods of mining extraction, and the notion of developing industrial sites on ridgelines were not on anyone’s radar nor were they included in recent community surveys, public input, or focus group processes. Technology and Federal mandates have rapidly changed business as usual for many communities, and Floyd is no exception,” Ingoldsby said.
Ramona Dixon read a opinion column from the Sept. 28 edition of The New York Times which described how mountaintops are flattened and forests destroyed to develop sites for wind turbines.
The sole proponent for the wind turbine project at Tuesday’s meeting, Cecilia Rudisill of Indian Valley, said she and her husband support wind turbine farms to “protect the senior citizens and those on fixed incomes in Floyd County.”
Rudisill said the proposed turbine farms would create jobs, create much-needed tax revenue, and bring tourists to Floyd County.
“Wind generators are beautiful,” she said. “I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but many people find them attractive.”
William Booth of Courthouse District, for the third straight month, presented the board with a petition bearing signatures of residents opposed to the wind farms.
Board chairman David Ingram also entered into the meeting record letters from six residents opposed to the generators.
County attorney Cornwell will bring the proposed draft ordinance back to the board at next month’s meeting. Virginia’s guidelines for ridge line protection ordinances allow the county to regulate structures more than 40 feet high along ridgelines more than 2,000 feet above sea level and 500 feet or more higher than the valley below.
Wills Ridge falls within those guidelines.
If approved, the supervisors would hold a public hearing on the proposed ordinance.
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