BAYBORO – Pamlico County commissioners voted down a proposed tall structures ordinance Monday that would govern wind farms and communication towers.
The split 4-3 vote came after a public hearing in which a half-dozen community speakers voiced split opinions on the ordinance. While the wording covers towers, the gist of the ordinance was aimed at potential wind turbine farms, which were first proposed in Pamlico County this past August.
Following the denial vote Monday, Commissioner Paul Delamar III asked the county legal staff to look into the county’s options and also asked that the ordinance be sent back to the planning board. That motion passed by a 7-0 vote. Earlier in the meeting, a motion by Commissioner Kenny Heath to send the document back to the planning board was defeated 4-3.
The vote to accept the nine-page ordinance included Delamar, Chairman Ann Holton and first-term Commissioner Pat Prescott. No votes by Heath, Jimmy Spain, Chris Mele and Carl Ollison defeated the matter.
“I am disappointed that we had the opportunity to pass an ordinance and failed,” Holton said.
Mele asked that the planning board consider an “original” version of the document, which she said was stronger in its wording.
Among one of the changes the board did agree on was changing the language regarding setbacks to include it being measured from “existing grade.” Ollison, a member of the planning board, made that recommendation, noting it would keep anyone from building up a high base and then erecting a wind turbine tower.
The proposed ordinance had limited the height of windmills and communication towers at 500 feet, with a setback of 2.5 times the height to the property line of landowners not involved in a tower project. That comes to a maximum 1,250-foot setback.
The ordinance, it was noted, did not cover any of the county’s municipalities, where most of the county’s 13,000 residents live.
During an early presentation by the commissioners and facilitated by Holton, it was noted that it would require 143 acres to place one tower if it was surrounded on all sides by non-participating land owners.
Heath reiterated an earlier request that the county send representatives to visit a wind turbine farm to see and hear them in operation.
“We spent $25,000 to fight ferry tolls. We can spend a couple of thousand to ensure we have a more perfect (tall structure) ordinance,” he said.
Ollison complained that the planning board was rushed to complete the ordinance, a statement challenged by Delamar, who pointed out that the commissioners sent the matter to the planners last August.
Mele expressed concerns about federal subsidies for wind energy companies, the negative impact on nearby Cherry Point air station’s training mission over the county and low-frequency repetitive noise. She called the setbacks “inadequate,” a word she used at an earlier meeting to describe the overall ordinance.
For now, the county has no ordinance governing the building of communication towers or wind turbines. The commissioners did not set a date for the planning board to report back.
Spain did ask that each commissioner submit their concerns about the ordinance in writing to the planning board.
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