BEAUFORT – County commissioners got the opportunity to hear from the public on potential wind energy projects Monday.
A public hearing for the county’s tall structure ordinance occurred during the monthly commissioner’s meeting, held Nov. 18 in the administration building.
Five county residents spoke during the public hearing, including former Commissioner Bettie Bell.
“I’m hoping, when it’s all done and said tonight, that the board of commissioners will not do anything hasty as far as making certain amendments without further studies (of wind turbine projects),” said Ms. Bell, who also spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting.
Changes to the county ordinance came on the heels of Newport town commissioners’ move to get in place a town ordinance in light of a potential turbine project east of town.
Torch Renewable Energy, based out of Houston, Texas, currently owns a meteorological tower near Mill Creek, collecting data to determine if the area is viable for turbines.
Ms. Bell, a Mill Creek resident, and others expressed numerous concerns over the impacts of wind farms, rather than the ordinance itself, citing personal health woes, environmental impacts and plummeting property values that could result.
Monday night, commissioners were not set to take any action concerning potential wind farms, but instead approve a round of ongoing amendments to the county’s existing tall structures ordinance.
Chairman Greg Lewis said while the county has done a “poor job” of communicating in the past, they intend to improve efforts in light of ongoing public concern over the turbines.
No application has been submitted to construct a wind farm within county limits, he confirmed.
“As there has been no application with Torch LLC, there are no documents to share,” Chairman Lewis said.
County officials said the amendments lend strength to the ordinance, which was the first of its kind in the state.
Not all commissioners felt comfortable with the changes, however.
“I just need to be comfortable…I want to make sure it’s as strong as it can be,” said Commissioner Elaine Crittenton.
Both commissioners Crittenton and Robinson worried that ordinance changes were too sweeping and weakened the county’s stance on turbines.
Commissioner Crittenton, who lives near the proposed site, said she is concerned with noise and environmental pollution such projects could create.
“(Torch) may have not applied, but they’re going through all the legwork, and they’ve been in our county and talking to lots of folks,” Commissioner Crittenton said.
Torch LLC has submitted an application to the state Utilities Commission on a proposed turbine placement, according to county officials.
Commissioner Jonathan Robinson asked the board to refuse to pass the ordinance changes and instead enact a moratorium to buy the county time prior to tall structure applications.
Instead, upon the counsel of the county attorney that the ordinance could be further improved, the board decided to approve the ordinance changes in a unanimous motion.
A work session for the county commissioners and planning board will be scheduled to revisit and refine the ordinance further, prior to the December board meeting.
Chairman Lewis said the board appreciated the outpouring of resident participation and would continue to monitor any proposed wind facilities in Carteret County.
Amendments to the tall structures ordinance included setback reviews, refinement of the permit process and the requirement of applications for tall structures to be submitted to the current commanding officer at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point for review and comment.
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