November 5, 2012

Citizens speak out against wind turbines, planning commission votes down ordinance

Written by Ben Felder, Editor | November 5, 2012 | The Piedmont Citizen |

Piedmont citizens, led by Mayor Valerie Thomerson, told the planning commission Monday that wind turbines were not welcome in Piedmont.

Commissioners heard that message and voted to table indefinitely a proposed commercial wind turbine ordinance.

“We do not want commercial wind generators in Piedmont,” Thomerson said during the public comments portion of the meeting. “I don’t see any benefit to Piedmont, at all. You are going to ruin our view.”

Thomerson wasn’t the only person to speak out against wind turbines as a packed house produced several citizens who officially address the commission to express disagreement with a proposed ordinance on the agenda. However, even before citizens could express their opposition, city staff recommended that the ordinance in front of the planning commission be voted down.

“I think there are some legitimate risks,” Community Development Director Wade Harden said after delivering a presentation on the ordinance. “I think it’s hard to say exactly what the impacts [of a wind turbine] would be.”

Harden said an ordinance could address some concerns like shadow flicker and lighting, but other risks associated with property values, health and future development were harder to address.

Virginia-based Apex Wind Energy has announced plans for a $500 million wind farm project in the area with 16 turbines proposed for inside Piedmont city limits. Apex project manager Kent Dougherty released a map prior to Monday’s meeting with the location of each turbine marked. The turbines would be located in the rural northwest part of town, but several citizens said they were worried it would destroy the town’s rural feel.

A few citizens spoke in favor of the ordinance, including owners of property that has already been leased to Apex for wind turbines. Dougherty said 20 leases with Piedmont property owners have already been signed after talks began a couple years ago.

However, some commissioners said they were upset that Apex had been talking with property owners for almost two years before approaching the city. Commissioner Eric Berger said he was in favor of wind energy but did not feel it was right for Piedmont.

“I’m in favor of wind power…as a nation, this is something we need,” Berger said. “That being said, I think there is a time and a place…and this is not it.”

Berger also said he was concerned with the safety risks posed by a wind turbines, which was a common theme raised by citizens during public comments.

“I can see a blade slicing right through a house and the people in it [ during a tornado],” Berger said. “This is not a good fit for Piedmont.”

Commissioner Steve Morris said he was in favor of wind turbines and would welcome one on his property, but he joined the rest of the commission in voting down the ordinance because of the outcry from citizens.

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