After meeting Thursday night, the Carroll County Windmill Committee is expected to make a formal recommendation to the Carroll County Board of Supervisors on Sept. 10 to either take action to adopt a ridgetop construction ordinance or to take no action at all.
The Windmill Committee, comprised of Carroll supervisors Joshua Hendrick and Bob Martin, met for an hour Thursday night to discuss future plans. Windmills became a hot topic in Carroll County during an April 9 meeting when Martin said a company from Texas was proposing to place windmills on Stoots Mountain. Multiple landowners have been approached by representatives of EDP Renewables/Horizon Wind Energy about a potential wind energy project, sparking much debate in Carroll County.
While both supervisors were in agreement Thursday night that windmills would not be beneficial to the county, Hendrick did express concerns that a ridgetop construction ordinance could be viewed as similar to zoning. Zoning is something most people in the county are opposed to, he pointed out.
Even so, Martin’s stressed that the time has come for the county to take a stance one way or another on windmills.
“We need to get off the fence. If we keep piddling around, if we don’t have some controls on this, I don’t know if you can stop the process,” Martin said. “The main thing is I don’t see where it is going to benefit Carroll County in the long run.”
Martin said he felt like the next step for the board of supervisors would be to have the Planning Commission look at a ridgetop construction ordinance and then to have the board adopt it as a whole.
Brenda Quesenberry said there is an 83-minute film on windmills that includes footage of them exploding in the air.
“I think if people knew more, they would run away from windmills and not look back,” she said.
Hendrick noted there are very few spots in Carroll County that could produce enough wind to make windmills feasible in the county. In conversations with Doug Domenech, the Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources, Hendrick said he’s learned windmills will not lower your electric bill.
“But my biggest concern on an ordinance that wouldn’t allow windmills of this scale, does that point us in the direction of zoning? It is a facet of zoning and that’s my hangup,” Hendrick said. “Most people we’ve approached are not in favor of zoning. The argument I hear is, ‘I don’t want anybody telling me what to do with my land.’”
Regardless, Martin said he could not support windmills.
Hendrick said he had hoped citizens would look at windmills from the prospective of being in their own backyard during a public hearing in August. Brenda Quesenberry wanted to know who would get use of the electricity generated by windmills located in Carroll. Hendrick said he posed the same question to Secretary Domenech.
“There is only one customer, AEP. So when it goes on the grid, it could go anywhere,” Hendrick said. “There is nothing that says it has to stay in Virginia. That is the problem I have with it, there’s nothing to keep it here and it won’t lower your electric bills.”
Martin said he is all for progress in the county, but it’s also the beauty of the county that attracts so many people here. He doesn’t view windmills as industry.
“My recommendation would be that we urge the board of supervisors to start the process to adopt a ridgetop construction ordinance, which addresses structures,” Martin said. “So I’d recommend we send it to the Planning Commission to look at an ordinance to send back to the board to adopt.”
Hendrick said he would still be on the fence, however.
“I wouldn’t want one in my backyard,” Hendrick said. “But with the minority of people wanting it, you go back to that zoning question and that’s what gives me heartburn.”
Martin said he felt like zoning will eventually come to Carroll County at some point in the future because of the same kinds of issues. But he feels like Carroll is going in the right direction to attract industry. He said building windmills is not the solution for the county.
He asked Hendrick if he was in favor of enacting an ordinance while also expressing concern that it is a form of zoning.
“We’ve been down this road before with the motocross park (in Dugspur several years ago). Me personally, I wouldn’t want one beside me, but I’d like the power to put one on my land if I wanted one,” Hendrick said. “The only way to do that is with a zoning ordinance and I’m afraid that’s the way we are headed.”
But wouldn’t that be better than allowing unrestricted access to windmill companies, Martin asked?
“There could be many people who think this looks like zoning. It won’t be a popular discussion, but I don’t want to steer away from it. I think the general recommendation in the county, as a whole, is people don’t support windmills,” Hendrick said. “I personally don’t think windmills are a viable prospect at this time and I don’t think the people of the county favor them at this time. I’m not saying I want zoning, but I think it is an issue that could lead to that, just like the motocross. I really don’t see it as a huge benefit to the county as a whole, but should the few people who do support it not get it?”
Martin said he just doesn’t think you can justify windmills in Carroll. While it may be a good deal for the company, he wasn’t sure it’s a good deal for Carroll County. He then asked Hendrick if he agreed a recommendation should be made for the county to adopt a ridgetop construction ordinance, or to take no action at all.
Hendrick wanted people to realize that a ridgetop construction ordinance would not be just for Stoots Mountain.
“I don’t want anyone to think this is just for Stoots Mountain, it’s just that Stoots Mountain prompted the discussion. I wanted people to realize this could be in my backyard,” Hendrick said. “To me, it is not something that will be beneficial to Carroll County.”
An ordinance may not even need to go to the Planning Commission, Hendrick said. He didn’t want other supervisors to feel like they have to vote Monday night. He did hope that the board could have a resolution in place by the October meeting, however.
Martin countered that supervisors need to take action soon.
“The board will be voting on it whether they realize it or not because no action means a green light for everything,” Martin said. “I feel like the motion will hit the floor one way or the other. Really, there are three choices. You either vote to send it to the Planning Commission, you vote to take no action, or you take it under advisement. I can tell you right now I am not taking it under advisement.”