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Roanoke County supervisor outnumbered on change to wind energy policy  

Credit:  By Katelyn Polantz, The Roanoke Times, www.roanoke.com 26 October 2011 ~~

An attempt by a Roanoke County supervisor to tighten a portion of the county’s new wind energy policy fell flat Tuesday afternoon.

Four supervisors – Charlotte Moore, Richard Flora, Mike Altizer and Chairman Butch Church – denied reconsidering the maximum 60 decibel limit.

Supervisor Ed Elswick had hoped the board would lower the maximum decibel limit because he said that amount of sound would be out of place and “industrial” in rural areas.

The board members voted against Elswick’s motion because they supported the policy, they said, and it wouldn’t dictate individual projects. When a company’s plans for 15 to 18 turbines on Poor Mountain comes before the board, likely next year, the supervisors can change the guidelines and approve or deny a special use permit application.

“This is an ordinance that sets a base and a foundation from which to work,” Altizer said. “When a petition comes, it’ll be done so on [its own] merits.”

Two weeks ago, when Elswick had proposed rescinding the limit, he compared 60 decibels to a busy road. According to the League for the Hard of Hearing, 60 decibels equals the noise of normal conversation, a sewing machine or an electric toothbrush. While a quiet residential area is 40 decibels, freeway traffic and heavy traffic are 70 decibels or more, the league said in a 2008 fact sheet.

Elswick’s motion would have pushed the policy back to the planning commission and added a new round of public hearings before the board could vote again.

Flora mentioned during Tuesday’s discussion a pending lawsuit that opposes the policy, filed by residents of Bent Mountain who fear the wind farm nearby. The county hasn’t yet responded to the suit, and County Attorney Paul Mahoney said that situation shouldn’t factor into a decibel level policy decision.

The supervisors had set the wind ordinance Sept. 13 after hearing long and divisive comments from the public. Controversial points of the ordinance included the decibel limit and a minimum distance the turbines may sit from homes, 1,000 feet. Lowering the decibel limit likely would have forced the turbines to stand farther from neighboring properties.

At the Sept. 13 meeting, Elswick, whose Windsor Hills District includes Bent and Poor mountains, walked out and didn’t vote on the policy, unhappy with his four fellow supervisors’ votes in its support.

“People who live in rural areas are accustomed to quiet levels,” he said Tuesday. “It sends a signal to them that it’s OK, we’ll take our beautiful rural areas and convert them into industrial-type areas with industrial-type noise.”

Also at the meeting, Elswick asked the board to hear information at an upcoming work session about RCCLEAR, a county-affiliated group that works to reduce pollution and energy consumption, and ICLEI, a sustainability initiative the county funds with $1,200 yearly and that members of the local tea party have spoken against at multiple board meetings.

Source:  By Katelyn Polantz, The Roanoke Times, www.roanoke.com 26 October 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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