NEWPORT – Permits for tall structures are going to be on hold for the next 58 days while the Newport council and planning board examine the town zoning ordinance to see if changes are needed to protect public health and safety.
The council held a special meeting Tuesday evening, attended by about 26 citizens, where after a public hearing, the town council unanimously approved a resolution for a 58-day moratorium on permitting for tall structures.
According to the town’s zoning ordinance, these structures “are defined as, but not limited to, steeples, towers, smoke chimneys, wind-activated devices such as commercial wind mills, high rise buildings, etc.” Mayor Pro Tem Ken Davis moved to approve the resolution, seconded by Councilman Chuck Shinn.
The council then unanimously deferred examination of the zoning ordinance to see if additional safeguards were needed for the permitting of tall structures to prevent them from being a hazard to public health and safety. Councilman David Heath moved to defer the matter to the board, seconded by Mr. Shinn.
The next planning board meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 21. Planning Board Chairman John Davis, who was present at the Tuesday special meeting, said they will be taking public comment at the board meeting on possible action they could take to amend the ordinance. He also said it’s likely the board will schedule a review of the ordinance two weeks after the October meeting.
Mayor Derryl Garner said that during the moratorium, the council and planning board will be consulting with the Federal Aviation Administration, aviation experts, public health and safety experts and officials from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. The purpose of these consultations will be to determine what potential ordinance changes may be needed to prevent tall structures from impacting air fields, air strips, military facilities and residential property.
Mr. Heath requested the special meeting at the Sept. 10 council meeting. The council adopted a new zoning ordinance at that meeting, which consolidated the old ordinance, originally adopted in 1997, with the various amendments that had been made over time.
Mr. Heath said he’d examined the ordinance and saw that very little language in the ordinance that addresses regulating tall structures. Mr. Heath sits on the Carteret County Planning Committee, which he said held a number of hearings and discussions when developing the county’s tall structure ordinance several years ago.
“I have no issue with tall structures,” Mr. Heath said after the meeting, I just want to make sure there are enough safeguards in place. There’s a lot of open ground around Newport that are prime locations for these facilities.”
The two facilities that come to Mr. Heath’s mind first are cell phone towers and wind energy farms. Both the state and the federal government have shown interest in locating wind energy turbines in Carteret County, primarily offshore. However, citizens at public meetings have been divided in their opinion on the turbines.
Over the years, at various public meetings, some Carteret County residents have supported wind turbines as an alternate energy source to reduce people’s reliance on fossil fuel sources. However, others have been opposed to them, saying the turbines would impact tourism and the appearance of the coast, as well as pose a hazard to wildlife and military operations.
Mr. Heath said he’d heard rumors about a wind farm being proposed on property on Mill Creek Road. However, he hadn’t heard who was proposing the facility or when it was proposed. At this time, no formal requests are before the Newport permitting office to build a wind energy farm.
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