BAYBORO – The Pamlico County Planning Board greatly reduced setbacks Tuesday night in the final version of a proposed tall structures ordinance that now goes to the county commissioners.
The ordinance sets rules for structures such as wind turbines and communication towers at 500 feet in height. The ordinance came after a Florida wind energy company made a presentation last year to the county commissioners and expressed interest in building wind turbines in the county.
The ordinance passed in a split 4-2 vote on the setbacks issue Tuesday, with planning board members Nick Santoro and Dr. Vernon Rose opposing the reduced setback distances. Planning board member Carl Ollison, also a county commissioner, did not attend the meeting.
The ordinance now goes to the commissioners and it will undergo the scrutiny of a public hearing.
The planners did not change language that requires tall structure builders to get written approval from Cherry Point air station on projects.
The planners by consensus agreed to do away with sideline setback requirement for adjacent property owners who were allowing wind turbines to be constructed on their properties. In essence, two or more adjacent property owners with wind turbines would be treated as one property for setback purposes.
The hard setback to public right of ways and to the property of non-participating adjacent property owners was reduced from a half mile to a maximum of 1,250 feet.
The 4-2 vote changed the hard setback to 2.5 times the height of the structures.
Santoro argued unsuccessfully for what he called a matter of public safety in regard to noise and visual impacts.
Rose said afterwards that the noise and sight impacts were also his concerns, but added “I don’t think this is a bad compromise.”
Santoro said afterwards that he was disappointed with the setbacks rule.
“I wanted to see the half-mile setbacks because I’m concerned about the public safety,” he said. “I think there could be impacts, both visually and sound. Otherwise I think it does what we were asked to do.”
During the Tuesday night discussion, planning board chairman John Buck said he had visited wind turbine sites and felt “noise is a non-issue.”
Board member Maurice Benton of Stonewall initiated the setback talk, saying that the half-mile buffer would have eliminated many property owners from being able to participate in potential wind energy projects. One of the selling points in last year’s wind energy presentation was that participating property owners would be compensated for allowing the structures to be built on their land.
The ordinance has provisions for sound levels, and the rotor blades on wind turbines must be at least 24 feet above the ground.
The draft also calls for a bond or cash deposit amounting to 150 percent of the cost to remove any abandoned wind energy facilities.
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