Floyd – Floyd County’s proposed ordinance limiting development on ridge lines received a two-and-a-half hour airing of diverse opinions from 47 speakers who either supported proposed wind turbine electrical generators, opposed the giant windmill farms, voiced concern over intrusion of property rights, or urged more education and understanding on the issues before passing any new ordinances. The meeting was held Tuesday night in the Floyd County High School auditorium.
“It’s very premature,” alternative energy advocate Billy Weitzenfeld said of the proposed ordinance which bans structures that rise more than 40 feet above a ridgeline, “and it could potentially forever ban development of wind energy in Floyd County when you do not have the fact-based information necessary to make that decision.”
Former Courthouse Supervisor Jerry Boothe said the ordinance, as drafted, doesn’t address some of his concerns about the proposed wind generator farms.
“If you adopt the ordinance as it is, it does not address any of the blasting on the ridge lines and the impact on the shallow aquifers,” Boothe said. “You can raise the elevations, you can raise the building height but there’s nothing in there about that impact.”
Boothe recommended taking a second look at the height restriction.
“I would recommend using the existing cell phone tower height as an average,” Boothe said. “At least that way you’re not pulling a number out of the air. If the average cell phone tower height in Floyd County is 125 feet then change the 40 feet to 125 feet. Base it on something sound. That still takes care of the windmill situation.” Wind turbine generators are generally 400-500 feet high.
J.C. Holden of the Copper Hill District said the issue is not wind turbines but property rights.
“If a man owns property and wants to put a windmill on it, that’s his business,” Holden said. “As long as that windmill is not bothering mine and is not throwing bird guts over on my place, let him have it.”
Several speakers expressed concerns over what they felt was the ordinance’s infringement on property rights of landowners in the county.
Developer Jim Woltz of the Locust Grove District said the ordinance presented by the supervisors went far beyond addressing the concerns of Floyd County citizens who signed petitions supporting “buffer zones” around proposed wind turbine farms and limited the rights of landowners.
“Whose right is it to decide one Floyd County taxpayer has a different or superior right just because of the elevation?” Woltz said. “I don’t think you need the ordinance as it is written.”
Frank Rudisill of Indian Valley, a proponent of wind generators, urged supervisors to look at what he says are the economic benefits of wind generators and do something to help cash-strapped farmers and retirees on fixed incomes who can’t pay high utility bills rather than concentrate on tourism, which he said does little to help farmers or property owners.
“I don’t see none of these farmers or these elderly get tax breaks out of these tourists,” he said.
“The primary issue here, as has already been mentioned, is property and individual rights,” said Kirsten Vest of Check. “Whether or not windmills would be beneficial to Floyd County is secondary. The board back before the first of the year had a knee-jerk reaction. Floyd’s ordinance, if it is approved as it is, (means) I couldn’t even put up a small windmill on my land or on top of my house to provide cleaner energy for my family. I will forever be enslaved to AEP and their rate increases. The only consolation I guess is that my husband can still enjoy the pristine views as he drives to Roanoke every day to work…but that’s a whole ‘nuther soapbox.”
Dave Dixon of the Courthouse District said that while much of the debate centers around the rights of individual landowners, “very little is said about the rights of the adjacent property owners.”
“The proposed development on Wills Ridge will put wells, spring and surface water in jeopardy on adjacent surrounding property owners for miles, not to mention the devaluation of property values of up to 40 percent,” Dixon said.
Hotel Floyd owner Jack Wall urged the county to look at the overall picture.
“We don’t want uranium mining in Floyd, we don’t want power lines running across our county, we don’t want a lot of the coal mining stuff,” Wall said, “So what are the alternatives? I know these wind turbines are scary sometimes, but they are a reliable source of energy.”
Peter Jackson, who lives on Indian Springs Road, urged the supervisors to get more information before passing any ordinance.
“We don’t know the facts from the fictions,” Jackson said, “so it would be my recommendation that you table the issue until you understand the economic benefit, the effects of your decision as well as the environmental hazards that it may or may not provide.”
Little River District resident Mike Kovick agreed the issue is about property rights, but said property rights go beyond the boundaries of individual properties.
“Yeah, I got property rights, everybody’s got property rights,” Kovick said, saying that the noise generated by wind turbines violate those property rights.
“These windmills make so much noise that in France they are required by law to be 1.2 miles away from any residence,” Kovick said. “That’s 1.2 miles in every direction. That’s two-and-a-half miles. I don’t know how you can even think about doing this. You’re going to disenfranchise a lot of Floyd residents. We’re all one community looking out for each other.”
Elmer Underwood of Indian Valley said he should have the right to do whatever he wants with his land.
“The way I look at it, if I want to put one (a wind generator) in my field, that’s my business and it ain’t none of y’all’s business,” Underwood said, pointing to the supervisors. “As long as it’s legal and all, I think I ought to be able to do it.”
Underwood said that if any supervisor came on his land and tried to stop him doing what he wanted with his property, “I’ll bust you in the nose.”
Supervisors will take a second look at the ordinance at a future meeting.
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