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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 in Newport’s extraterritorial district – the Mill Pond project – Newport’s commissioners adopted a revised and strengthened tall structures ordinance Feb. 17.
On Feb. 26, county commissioners followed suit, unanimously adopting a revised and strengthened county tall structures ordinance.
While the passage of both ordinances was done knowing Torch had announced Jan. 31 that it was withdrawing its request for the industrial wind turbines and the solar farm apparently because it wouldn’t receive a variance from either ordinance prior to their revision, Carteret County Manager Russell Overman said on Carolina Journal Feb. 25 that Torch had not withdrawn its permit application for the project from the North Carolina Utilities Commission, the state agency to which it initially submitted its application.
So Torch could and might renew the process.
Now we learn that on Feb. 26, the date county commissioners adopted the revised ordinance, a Torch spokesman wrote Mr. Overman saying, “prior to Torch’s decision to abandon the Mill Pond project, the county initiated a procedurally and substantively flawed process to amend the ordinance … Many of the amendments to the already stringent ordinance are entirely arbitrary and capricious, discriminatory, without any technical, scientific or rational basis and clearly intended to totally prevent any wind development in the county. … [and] flagrantly violate the laws of North Carolina and of the United States.”
He added that the amendments “blatantly violate the Equal Protection Clause by discriminating against one form or (sic) property use and economic activity without any rational basis for doing so” and he urges the board to “restart the amendment process and conduct it in a deliberative and objective fashion.”
Mr. Overman also received a letter from Bob Emory, Southern Timberlands Environmental Affairs manager for Weyerhaeuser Co., owner of a large parcel that would constitute the Mill Pond project, saying the one-mile setback adopted by Newport and the county was inequitable, violated private property rights and was offensive and arbitrary. In letters to county commissioners, Mr. Emory said the tower height restrictions and noise restrictions were “unreasonable.”
All of which makes a case that we may not have seen the last of the Mill Pond project.
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