Floyd – Faced with strong public backlash over property rights, Floyd County Supervisors Tuesday shelved a proposed ordinance limiting development along ridge lines and opted instead to create a task force to study the impact of proposed wind turbine electrical generator farms on the land, environment, tourism and the economy.
Each of the county’s five supervisors would appoint two members to the task force, which would deliver recommendations back to the board at a future – but unspecified date.
The motion to create the task force passed 4-1 with Indian Valley Supervisor Fred Gerald voting “no.”
The proposed ordinance generated considerable public debate since the board initiated it at the final meeting of the old board of supervisors in December. A public hearing on the ordinance drew 47 speakers on Jan. 31, and while opinions differed on the proposed wind turbines farms, most speakers said they felt the ban infringed on private property rights.
All supervisors said they had received many concerns from county citizens over what those citizens felt was an intrusion of private property rights through the ordinance. Board chairman Case Clinger (Courthouse District) noted there was also a lot of confusion about the limitations of the ordinance.
“Some felt the ordinance limited all construction of the county to 40 feet or less when the actual intent of the ordinance was a limit of construction that rose 40 feet or more above a ridge line,” Clinger said.
Supervisors said public reaction against the ordinance was strong because of the property rights issue.
“I’d say 90 percent of the people who talked to me does not want the ordinance,” stated Burks Fork Supervisor Joe Turman. “It comes down to private property rights and I stand by them on that. But at the same time, 75 percent of them don’t want the wind turbines. If we want to stop the wind turbines, we need to do it another way.”
Gerald said he agreed with county residents who felt the proposed ordinance violated private property rights.
And while most supervisors said they questioned the viability of wind generators in Floyd County, they also felt the board needed more information before making a decision on the turbines.
“We need to know more about the impact,” Locust Grove Supervisor Lauren Yoder, who proposed the task force, said. “What they find out might change our mind.”
“They won’t change my mind,” said Little River District Supervisor Virgel Allen, who opposes the turbines.
At least two companies have expressed an interest in leasing land on ridge lines in Floyd County to erect wind turbines that could tower as high as 500 feet. One company, Nordex, is proposing a large wind generator farm on Wills Ridge.
Some speakers at the public hearing on Jan. 31 said they felt the proposed ordinance – while effectively banning the large wind generator farms – would also prevent property owners from erecting private wind generators as an alternative energy source for their homes.
County Attorney James Cornwell said the proposed ordinance followed the state code on height requirements and elevation but said the board could establish other restrictions if it wanted to create an ordinance setting specific restrictions on specific structures like the giant wind turbines.
The board, however, appeared in no mood to propose any ordinance and decided to turn the issue over to a committee.
During the public comment period, wind generator supporter Frank Rudisill of Indian Valley told the board it needed to consider the economic benefits of allowing the turbine farms in Floyd County. Rudisill, however, conceded that public sentiment in the county appears – at this time – to be against the wind turbines and said that all it generally takes is one holdout to block such a project.
Rudisill suggested the county put a voluntary five percent “view tax” on the upcoming half-year tax bills. “Let’s see how many people who are against this would actually volunteer to give you five percent tax revenue.”
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