We salute Newport commissioners for strengthening the town’s tall structure ordinance, to the point that what Newport now has is practically iron clad.
Action taken by the Newport Council last Monday night in a special joint meeting with the town’s planning board was in response to plans announced last year by Texas-based Torch Renewable Energy LLC to erect 40 industrial wind turbines almost 500 feet high and a solar panel farm on 50-75 acres between Little Deep Creek and Little Deep Road in the town’s extraterritorial district.
Torch Renewable Energy withdrew its request Jan. 31 after apparently deciding it would not receive a variance from the town’s tall structure ordinance.
Now Newport’s ordinance has newer, tighter restrictions that address concerns brought up by residents about the potential impacts of a wind energy facility.
Action taken by the council, as reported this past Wednesday by News-Times staff reporter Mike Shutak accomplishes the following:
• Allows wind energy facilities only in R-20 (Residential Agricultural district) and IW (Industrial Warehouse district).
• Requires industrial grade wind energy facilities to have a special use permit, issued by the town board of adjustment.
• Increases the setback from 2,500 feet to 5,000 feet from neighboring property lines and 1,000 feet from property lines neighboring the Croatan National Forest.
• Requires builders to meet the regulations of the N.C. Building Code.
• Reduces the allowable noise level at the property line from 45 decibels to 35.
• Requires a $500,000 surety bond per industrial wind turbine to guarantee demolition.
• Reduces the maximum allowable height for industrial turbines from 550 feet to 275.
• Requires a $50,000 escrow account to pay for any consulting fees or other expenses incurred by the town during permitting, to be returned (minus any expenses incurred by the town) if a permit isn’t issued.
Another vital element that the council had passed and retains that tightens Newport’s tall structure ordinance was a quality property value guarantee protecting homeowners from a decline in property value resulting from any deleterious effects of industrial wind turbines.
The town’s ordinance also now requires any wind energy developer to maintain an adequate liability insurance policy and indemnify the town for any lawsuit related to wind development.
“These protections came about because of the many citizens who took the time out of their busy lives to attend meetings and write their representatives,” said John Droz Jr., a Morehead City resident who has been an active opponent of wind energy.
“The system worked very well because the Newport Council and the Newport Planning Board listened to their constituents and were genuinely interested in providing adequate protection to the community,” he continued.
“They kept their eye on the ball and did not get distracted by specious enticements. Kudos to them,” he said.
Mr. Droz added that the Newport wind ordinance is a living document and that the council has agreed to make any improvements as additional research might indicate.
With the announcement by Torch Energy, two issues became paramount: the future of the Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Base, a Marine Corps bastion of national defense and the major employer in eastern North Carolina, and the quality of life in Carteret County and its neighbors.
Were the airspace surrounding the Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Base endangered by wind turbines, it could make the base a casualty of BRAC and then a likely candidate for base closure. The nation’s national defense notwithstanding, at an annual loss of $2 billion in wages and salaries, eastern North Carolina would be devastated.
It was noted that industrial wind turbines in Carteret County would cause tourism and agricultural losses of $13 million conservatively, plus a loss of more than 100 jobs. There would also be a net tax loss for the county and Newport as property near the turbines would depreciate, as would the resale value of homes near the turbines.
None of these scenarios were in the best interest of Carteret County or eastern North Carolina.
Now it’s up Carteret County Commissioners, who will hold a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the county administration building in Beaufort, to incorporate comparable protections for the county at large.
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