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Public hearing on ridge line bill January 31 at FCHS

Floyd – Floyd County Supervisors, facing public concern and misunderstanding on the intent of an ordinance banning ridge line construction of structures higher than 40 feet above the ridge, Tuesday night began looking for ways to modify the ordinance even before a public hearing next week.

At their first nighttime meeting under a new two-meetings a month schedule, supervisors heard from citizens opposed to construction of 490-feet high wind turbine generators while still questioning whether or not the proposed ordinance would infringe too much on private property rights for county landowners.

“I’d like to ask the board to clear up some of the confusion surrounding the draft of the ridge line tall structure height ordinance,” said Dave Dixon of Courthouse district. “Some of the misconceptions as to the objective of the ordinance come from the definition that the protected ridge line is 2000 feet above sea level.”

The proposed ordinance, passed by a split vote from the old board before two new members took their seats, follows state guidelines that set the minimum height at 2,000 feet. Most of Floyd County, even the low-lying areas, sits above 2000 feet. Supervisors said they have received complaints from county landowners who see the ordinance as a way to stop all construction on properties – even barns and homes if the height is more than 40 feet.

“There is a lot of confusion out there about the intent of the ordinance,” said newly-elected Locust Grove Supervisor Lauren Yoder.

Dixon told the board that he has attended most of the board and planning commission meetings where the ordinance was discussed and added that “I know firsthand that the intent of the ordinance is to protect the mountain ridge lines for various reasons as stated in the ordinance and not to set a county-wide building restriction as some have openly expressed. Your help in clarifying this issue is greatly needed and would be appreciated.”

Supervisors discussed whether or not raising the minimum height a level between 2,000 and 2,800 feet might resolve the issue but they cannot change the ordinance until after the public hearing scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, January 31 at the high school auditorium in Floyd.

County administrator Dan Campbell said county attorney Jim Cornwell explained the ordinance cannot be changed until after input at the hearing and was not sure, at this point, if the county can change the minimum height level above 2,000 feet since it is established in Virginia code. One county in Virginia has established an ordinance with a higher minimum height level, but that ordinance has not been tested in court.

Supervisors agreed by consensus that the proposed ordinance needs further discussion and refinement and will look at modifications following the public hearing.

Also during the public comment period, Helen St. Clair of the Indian Valley District thanked the board for scheduling night time meetings so those who work can attend and voiced opposition to the proposed wind turbine generators.

“I consider it an honor and a blessing to have a front porch view of the majestic Wills Ridge,” she said. “I was born and raised in Floyd County. I’m not for zoning of property nor ordinances that will hinder someone from doing what they want with their property as long as it doesn’t adversely affect the adjoining property owners, the community or the county.”

St. Clair asked the supervisors to “draft and pass an ordinance that will protect the property owner’s right to build dwellings, barns, etc on his property but also one that prohibits industrial wind power plants.”

Deborah Harris, who did not identify the district she lived in, said the costs for wind generation “are staggering and are neither clean nor green.”

“On a per kilowatt hour basis, subsidies for wind are 26 times those for fossil fuels,” Harris said. “According to the EIA – the United States Energy Information Administration – converting wind to electricity has the highest cost of any conventional power source. To have some foreign company devastate Wills Ridge with our tax dollars is simply appalling.”

Rick Waggoner, who lives on Wills Ridge, called it “the most beautiful place on earth.”

“I have a beautiful view and it would just be a shame to ruin it. Personally, if you’re looking for ‘yeses and no,’ we’re definitely in the ‘no’ column.”

Kathleen Ingoldsby of the Courthouse District presented the board with news videos from a Kiser, West Virginia wind turbine operation with generators the same height and size as the ones proposed for Wills Ridge.

“The complaints by residents about the noise gives some evidence to the concern about the noise of the wind turbines,” Ingoldsby said. “It is especially important because these turbines are the same size as the ones that are proposed here by Nordex.”