Now that a temporary ban on the issuance of permits for wind-energy facilities is in place, the work of Carteret County leaders is just beginning.
The Carteret County Board of Commissioners adopted an ordinance that imposes a 60-day moratorium on building permits for wind-energy generation to give the board time to review the county’s regulations for wind turbines and other tall structures.
“This allows us time to do the work we need to do,” said Commissioner Elaine Crittenton after Thursday night’s public hearing on the moratorium issue.
The board heard nearly three hours of public comments on the moratorium.
A crowd filled the Crystal Coast Civic Center for the public hearing, with 60 people speaking before the board.
Most of the speakers were supportive of the temporary ban, but comments represented both sides of the issue.
At the center of public concern is a proposal by Torch Renewable LLC that would put about 40 wind turbines on more than 7,000 acres in the Newport area.
A number of speakers stressed that one of the primary impacts would be on military flight training at Cherry Point.
Retired Col. Jimmie Green of Cape Carteret, a former Marine pilot and chief of staff at MCAS Cherry Point, said having turbines nearly 500 feet tall off the approach to the main runway would be a physical obstruction and potentially interfere with radar.
Encroachment on airspace, Green said, is a threat to military training and the future of military bases.
“If the Marine Corps can’t train safely, it jeopardizes our position,” he said.
Cherry Point, said a number of speakers, is a major contributor to jobs and the economy of the area.
Other concerns focused on potential impacts on property values around wind-energy facilities; health and safety issues from noise; visual changes to the landscape; and threats to birds and bats.
“I just don’t want it and I don’t think we need it,” said resident Jim Sloan.
But there also was a notable contingent of speakers who support alternative energy and the need to consider non-fossil-based fuels, such as wind and solar for future energy use.
Carteret County resident Penny Hooper, a member of the steering committee for N.C. Interfaith Power and Light, asked commissioners to evaluate all information carefully and to let the permitting process take place before making any decisions about the proposed project, which has yet to make formal application to the state or local government.
She said they will support Cherry Point if the Department of Defense says the base and the Torch facility cannot coexist, but they want wind energy given consideration.
“The ‘Sound of Freedom’ is an integral part of the fabric of our lives in this region,” she said. “But I would like to suggest that if Cherry Point can coexist with Torch Energy’s proposed wind-solar farm, then perhaps we could all grow accustomed to another sound, the ‘Sound of Sustainability.’”
Rocky Ray, Torch Renewable’s vice president of development, said the company continues to have discussions with the military on ways to mitigate any impacts to Cherry Point.
He said they want to work with and be a good neighbor to the community.
“This should be a collaboration and not a fight,” he said.
With the 60-day moratorium in place, residents said they hope to see the county work to strengthen the county’s tall-structures ordinance.
“There’s got to be some teeth in that ordinance to protect the citizens,” said Newport resident Mike Bell.
Commissioner Bill Smith said the public hearing provided valuable input leading into the upcoming discussions by the board.
“A lot of people showed and I was happy to see input from both sides,” he said. “A lot of good points were made and we have a lot work to do.”
The board has a joint meeting with the county planning commission scheduled for Jan. 6 to begin discussion of the tall-structures ordinance.
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