An effort by a Charlottesville, Va., company to put a wind farm in Baldwin County might be coming to a grinding halt.
Vince Jackson, director of the county’s Planning and Zoning Department, has crafted an ordinance that would prohibit wind projects like the one APEX Wind Energy has proposed for southern Baldwin County.
Jackson gave the Baldwin County Commission a copy of the ordinance during the commission’s work session meeting today.
It prohibits turbines that can produce energy in excess of 50 kilowatts or more.
Jackson and commissioners discussed tweaking the ordinance to ensure it does not prevent businesses and homeowners from putting small turbines on their properties.
After the tweaks, the ordinance will be reviewed by county attorney David Conner and then presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission for a vote.
The plan is to have the ordinance on the planning board’s July 11 agenda. The Baldwin County Commission also will have to vote on the ordinance.
Jackson said he also has crafted an ordinance that would allow for projects like APEX’s Foley Wind Project, but he did not present that ordinance to the commission.
“If you would like to see option one, I can email to it you, but I only brought option two because… my understanding is that you all favor just prohibiting the large turbines,” Jackson said.
The commission passed a passed a 180-day moratorium earlier this year after hearing about APEX’s plan to put wind turbines in the county.
The moratorium, which ends Aug. 19, prohibits the construction of wind farms and other wind-operated facilities that can produce energy in excess of five kilowatts.
In April, two representatives of APEX met with the commission to discuss the company’s plan to put about 40 turbines on 10,000 to 12,000 acres of land.
The turbines would be between 520 to 590 feet tall from the tower’s base to the tip of a blade in the 12 o’clock position.
Wade Barnes, an APEX Wind development manager, said it is disappointing to hear the direction that the commission seems to be moving toward.
“It’s a surprise to me that in an area that takes such pride in property rights the county government would take steps to prevent the rights of citizens who choose to participate in a project and draw the economic benefit of that participation,” he said.
A bill that passed during this year’s legislative session gave the commission the power to regulate wind-operated facilities in all unincorporated areas of the county.
The bill extends the commission’s power to regulate the facilities in unincorporated areas of the county that do not fall under the county’s zoning ordinances.
Commissioner Skip Gruber represents the area of Baldwin County where APEX has talked about putting the wind farm.
Gruber said he has been getting calls from people who are interested in buying land in south Baldwin County so they can financially benefit from the proposed wind farm.
The commissioner said he thinks the right move is to prohibit wind farms in the county, but he wants to make sure the commission can legally do it.
“I want don’t want this thing being in court forever and ever and ever,” he said. “It’s ridiculous to waste money in court.”
Commission Chairman Tucker Dorsey has been vocal about his opposition to the project, including during the commission’s April meeting with APEX officials.
Dorsey said he has received phone calls from across the country from people who are opposed to wind farms.
“From a health standpoint to a energy generation standpoint, there is no one that speaks positively about these things,” he said. “The noise, the durability, the impact to the landscape are too significant for us to take the risk on developing one of these things.”
Dorsey said he hopes APEX scraps its plan like it promised in April it would do if the commission indicated it was not interested in a wind farm in Baldwin County.
“The guy with APEX clearly said, ‘If you all don’t want us, we are going to the house,'” Dorsey said. “It’s time to say, ‘We are not interested.'”
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