BEAUFORT – A review of Carteret County’s tall structures ordinance is the top priority for county planners in the coming weeks as work begins to meet a moratorium deadline.
The county’s Planning Department has been instructed to have revisions to the ordinance, which includes regulations for wind turbines, back to the planning board for approval at its Feb. 10 meeting. The ordinance then goes to the Board of Commissioners, which has until March 2 to give its approval.
Commissioners imposed a 60-day moratorium on the issuance of building permits for wind energy facilities in order to give the board time to review the tall structures ordinance. The planning board received direction from commissioners during a brief joint meeting of the two boards held on Jan. 8.
Commissioner Robin Comer said the ordinance is the “big topic” on the table and noted a number of issues that need to be addressed during the review.
He said the height allowance should be revisited. Under the current ordinance, utility wind turbines of up to 550 feet could be allowed.
The ordinance currently has provisions for environmental and other studies, but Comer said it’s the developer of a project that determines who does the study. He believes it should be the county that selects who performs the study, at the developer’s expense.
“I’d personally like to see Carteret County have its own people make that decision,” he said.
Carteret County adopted its tall structures ordinance five years ago and has been back under discussion with a proposal by Texas-based Torch Renewable Energy to locate a wind and solar facility in the Newport area that would include an estimated 40 industrial wind turbines.
The proposal has raised concerns about impacts to nearby Cherry Point and military flight training, property values around the project, public health and safety and visual changes to the landscape.
Commissioners asked that a number of items be considered during the review by planners, including minimum setbacks of one mile, the addition of a property value guarantee, stronger acoustical limits, establishment of an escrow account, and surveys on impacts to water table.
Commissioner Elaine Crittenton said there is confusion over recent amendments to the ordinance.
County Planning Director Jim Jennings said the revisions were to strengthen provisions to protect the Marine Corps air station at Cherry Point from encroachment on air space. The revisions were also to make the ordinance uniform with Craven and Pamlico county regulations in terms of military protections.
Harry Archer, who has been elected planning board chairman for this year, said Carteret County’s tall structures ordinance has served as a model for others. He said the ordinance went through extensive review and each action was with the protection of Carteret County’s citizens in mind.
“Even today, when people speak about tall structure ordinances, they talk about Carteret County’s ordinance,” he said.
Archer also noted that the ordinance is not for wind turbines alone and also includes regulations for cell towers, which he said are “two separate entities.”
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