NEWPORT – A limited liability company is proposing to build a wind energy facility off Mill Creek Road, between the town’s corporate limits and Mill Pond, but the town planning board and council are working on regulations to make sure it doesn’t become a problem for neighboring property owners.
The town council and the planning board held a joint meeting Monday for the board’s regular meeting date. The board took public comments on creating new rules and regulations for tall structures, with a focus on wind energy turbines.
After receiving the input, the board unanimously recommended to the council that it adopt the latest draft of the ordinance, with amendments. Pat Gorman moved to recommend the draft with the amendments, seconded by Chuck Hudson.
As the board and council have been working on this ordinance, they say one LLC is pursuing state permits from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources for a wind energy facility.
Torch Renewable Energy LLC is proposing to build a 50-turbine wind energy farm on property on Mill Creek Road, currently owned by the Weyerhaeuser paper company.
The facility would also have a 50-75 acre solar panel farm, located between Little Deep Creek Road and Little Deep Creek. Bob Chambers, town planner, said a scoping meeting, limited to 35 people due to accommodations, on the project is scheduled for Nov. 5 in Wilmington. He said that he and Tim White, town manager, are planning to attend. A public meeting, yet to be scheduled, will also be held later in Carteret County.
The state made DENR the permitting agency for wind energy facilities with H.B. 484, which became law May 17. This bill requires anyone building a wind energy facility to get a permit from DENR, which will evaluate the site for potential impacts, hold a public scoping meeting and consult with other relevant state departments on the proposed facility.
This town’s planning board amended the proposed ordinance to create a minimum setback for all wind turbines of 1,300 feet from the property lines plus an additional setback of 2½ feet from the property line for every foot of height on the turbine. The planners also added a shutdown requirement if the turbines produce noise over 45 decibels at the property line for over 48 consecutive hours.
The recommendation will formally go to the council at its Nov. 14 regular meeting. The town council set a 58-day moratorium on permitting tall structures to allow enough time to create this proposed ordinance.
Jim Jennings, director of the Carteret County Planning Department, said from what he’s seen of the proposed ordinance, it won’t be as strict as the county’s ordinance on wind turbines.
About 23 people showed up for the Monday meeting, of which about nine spoke. The speakers seemed to have the same concerns that others have had at other meetings in Carteret County concerning proposed wind energy facilities, namely the potential impact of the turbines on property value, the risk of turbines being damaged and falling in a hurricane, the noise they’ll produce, the danger of shadow flicker, the potential impact to the environment (particularly wildlife) and the potential to interfere with military operations from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.
“I understand the situation you’re in,” one woman, who didn’t give her name, said to the board. “I just want to know you’ll not only look at what you can do without getting sued, but also what’s best for us.”
The proposed ordinance will make wind energy turbines a conditional use – meaning a proposal will have to go before both the planning board and the council before being permitted – and only allowed in property zoned R-20 (residential agricultural low density), which is primarily used for farming. Applicants will have to provide a shadow flicker and blade glint report.
This report will have to show that the turbines don’t create shadow flicker or blade glint that falls on any non-participating property or roadway. The only exceptions will be if the flicker or glint falling on property is less than 120 seconds per day for seven consecutive days (20 hours maximum per year) and if the flicker or glint falls more than 100 feet from an existing residence or business property.
Flicker or glint will only be allowed on roadways if the traffic volume is less than 500 vehicles per day and the flicker or glint doesn’t fall on an intersection of public roads.
The proposed ordinance requires wind energy facilities to keep noise levels at the property line of non-participating land owners lower than 45 decibels. This level may not be exceeded for more than five consecutive minutes.
If either the flicker/glint requirements aren’t met or the noise level is exceeded for more than 48 consecutive hours, the turbines will have to be shut down. This will last until the problem is solved. Additionally, the proposed ordinance requires applicants for a conditional-use permit for turbines to receive a DENR before the town government will even consider their application.
While citizens were worried about the potential impacts of such a facility being built just to the east of Newport, Councilman David Heath – who has been the primary councilman pushing for the ordinance – said he didn’t think the town government was in a position to “outlaw this by putting a setback in place that prevents them (the turbines) from being built.”
“If we do, it (the setback) will get thrown out (by the courts) and they’ll get to built the facility anyway, without any controls from us,” he said.
Board Chairman John Davis said the board is going to do the best it can to make reasonable decisions with permitting wind energy facilities.
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