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Hearing Thursday for moratorium

BEAUFORT – Commissioners will convene Thursday to hear, once again, from the public on proposed wind energy facilities and the 60-day moratorium county factions would like to impose on incoming applications.

The Crystal Coast Civic Center will the host the meeting at 6 p.m., Jan. 2.

A proposed wind and solar energy facility partially in the exterritorial jurisdiction of Newport near Mill Pond has sparked public outcry in recent months concerning possible negative impacts to the environment, health, military and civilian airspace and economic interests.

Texas-based Torch Renewable Energy LLC has submitted a preliminary application to the N.C. Utilities Commission for a 40-turbine facility that will also feature an array of solar panels. The company has yet to officially apply for a permit of any kind in Carteret County.

Chairman Jonathan Robinson proposed the hearing during a recent special meeting of the county board to discuss the project, a session in which the public wasn’t afforded the opportunity to comment.

The moratorium, if approved, would delay permit issuance for the construction of turbines for up to 60 days, during which commissioners and the planning board could continue ongoing amendments to the county’s tall structures ordinance, according to county officials.

Torch reached out to officials in a Dec. 27 letter to County Manager Russell Overman, stating it would not fight a moratorium, despite its management’s opinion that current regulations are sufficient.

“While Torch believes the county’s existing tall structures ordinance, as recently amended, fully protects the public health, safety and welfare – and notes that the existing ordinance is among the most stringent of its kind in the state of North Carolina – we are not opposed to the moratorium,” Torch said in the letter, signed by Vice President of Development Rocky Ray.

A slew of local representatives have spoken out against the project recently, including Mr. Robinson, Commissioner Robin Comer and Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret.

The commissioners could take action imposing the 60-day moratorium as early as Thursday night, said Mr. Overman.

“I think they are all in agreement that should be a moratorium,” he said.