BAYBORO – A once-defeated ordinance to govern the building of wind mills in Pamlico County has resurfaced and goes to a public hearing later this month.
The controversial proposal, crafted by the county planning board, appears to still be a divided issue among the seven county commissioners. At an April public hearing, the ordinance was voted down in a split 4-3 vote.
On Monday night, the board voted 6-1 to send it to an Aug. 19 public hearing, with opponent Commissioner Chris Mele again voting against the measure and saying wind mills would be bad for the public and impede Cherry Point air station training over the county.
Formerly called the Tall Structures Ordinance, it has been renamed the Pamlico County Wind Energy Ordinance. That better reflects the original reason that commissioners told the planning board last year to develop a document. That came after a Florida company made a presentation and indicated it was interested in building wind turbines in the county.
The new version has little change from the one that was defeated, and for the second time this year, Mele and Commissioner Paul Delamar III squared off on the issue.
Mele has been against the planned towers, which could be as tall as 500 feet, since they were first mentioned. She said the original and the revised ordinance are inadequate to address the military concerns and noise pollution.
Representatives from Cherry Point addressed the commissioners earlier this year and indicated that the wind mills could adversely affect things such as radar and its flight training in the skies over Pamlico County.
While the ordinance has language that calls for input by the military on any wind mill farm applications, Mele said the military basically has its hands tied by federal law.
“The commanding officers of military bases are forbidden from expressing their candid concerns about turbines and their interference with mission training,” she said Monday night. “In light of this, what agency or spokesperson representing the military would trigger Pamlico County placing a stop order on any potential wind energy project?”
She said the ordinance addresses noise from a single turbine, not the collective levels produced by rotating blades that can be up to 400 feet in diameter.
“The wind industry has a history of buying out homeowners whose lives were made unbearable from low-frequency repetitive hum,” she said. “Contractually, these families are now prevented from telling their experiences of living near wind turbines. That is why we don’t hear about it, because they have been muzzled.”
Delamar said there had to be a balance of rights between property owners near the wind mills and those who would chose to allow them to be built on their land.
“There is the interest of someone who wishes to maintain the integrity of his own property and the ability to enjoy his property. That is a concern,” he said. “There is an equally valid concern on the other side and that is the individual’s right to do what he pleases with the property he owns. Those are competing and sometimes contrary concerns. It is our job to balance those concerns. I think this ordinance strikes a balance appropriately providing enough protection for both.”
Delamar also said the wind farms could be a much needed economic boost for the county.
“This is the only industry that has shown this level of interest in this county,” he said.
Commissioner Kenny Heath had concerns about the effects on civilian and military aviation, as well as removal costs.
The ordinance calls for applicants to post a bond of 150 percent of the estimated cost to have the turbines removed. Heath also had concerns about the operators understating that cost. County Manager Tim Buck pointed out that the ordinance also allows the commissioners to order its own engineers to review applications, at the applicant’s expense.
Chairman Ann Holton said the board had listened to the military and shown genuine concern.
“I think we are representing the military and their interests,” she said, adding that the Pamlico ordinance is more restrictive that one passed by Craven County in May.
The vote to set the public hearing Aug. 19 was 6 to 1, with Mele voting against it.
The commissioners could approve the ordinance after the Aug. 19 hearing, but would have to do so by a unanimous vote. Otherwise, there will be a second public hearing, at which time a simple majority could enact the ordinance.
At the last public hearing, Commissioners Delamar, Chairman Ann Holton and first-term Commissioner Pat Prescott voted for the ordinance. But no votes by Mele, Heath, Jimmy Spain and Carl Ollison ended the discussion and sent the matter back to the planning board.
Delamar said Monday that continuing to send the matter back to the planners was futile.
“If we are waiting on a perfect ordinance, we will be waiting until the cows come home,” he said.
After the public hearing, the board can vote to approve the ordinance, but it will take a unanimous vote after the first reading. If it passes by a majority, there will be a second public hearing and then a simple majority vote would approve it.
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