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Wind energy meeting planned

BEAUFORT – A proposed wind energy project that has raised concerns in Carteret County will be up for discussion during a special meeting this week of county commissioners.

The Board of Commissioners will meet at 10 a.m. Friday in the boardroom at the County Administration Building in Beaufort to discuss wind energy and proposed wind energy projects, according to the notice of the special meeting.

The announcement of the meeting follows two recent community forums during which citizens and county officials have expressed concerns about a proposed project by Torch Renewable Energy LLC of Texas that would locate an estimated 40 industrial wind turbines on more than 7,000 acres outside of Newport.

The proposed wind and solar facility, known as the Mill Pond project, covers land that sits in the county’s jurisdiction as well as the extra-territorial jurisdiction for the Town of Newport.

“This is part of the process to inform the public of the issue and where we are in relationship to the Mill Pond project,” Carteret County Board of Commissioners Chairman Greg Lewis said.

While the meeting announcement leaves the discussion open to wind energy and the project in general, the county’s tall structures ordinance is likely to be an item of discussion.

During the community forums, one of the issues raised is the need to strengthen the county’s ordinance as well as the new tall structures ordinance adopted by the Town of Newport.

The county has had an ordinance in place for five years and has recently been working on revisions.

John Droz of Morehead City, a retired physicist who has researched environmental energy issues, organized the two recent community forums and has presented findings critical of wind energy and the proposed Mill Pond project.

Droz has suggested ways to improve the tall structures ordinance, including increasing setbacks to one mile, strengthening acoustical limits and ensuring only county commissioners can grant waivers to any terms of the ordinance.

Currently, variances can be issued by the county’s planning board of adjustment.

During the forums, concerns were raised about potential impacts of the proposed Mill Pond project on military training at Cherry Point and encroachment on airspace, the county’s tourism industry, public health and property values.

The wind energy issue is also on the agenda of the Board of Commissioners’ regular meeting set for Monday, Dec. 16, at 6 p.m.