BLUEFIELD, Va. – A proposed zoning ordinance for the Eastern District of Tazewell County would safeguard the area against undesirable developments, including wind turbines and medical waste facilities, officials said Thursday.
“It is a very broad stroke zoning ordinance that we are considering that would have a tremendous amount of the Eastern District designated as mixed use,” Charlie Stacy, chairman of the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors and a member of the county’s Planning Commission board, said. “But what we will have is a laundry list of prohibited use, and this is the least restrictive way to create a zoning ordinance that we have come up with so far.”
Stacy said the proposed zoning ordinance for the Eastern District would prohibit certain “undesirable developments,” including wind turbines and medical waste facilities.
“Our goal is to make it (the zoning ordinance) as least intrusive and offensive as possible,” Stacy said. “I think right now Virginia has six and a half counties left in the Commonwealth that don’t have zoning. It is my belief that those counties that do not have zoning are on the very short list of undesirable industries that wish to locate in Virginia. Tazewell County is one of those six remaining counties (without zoning). I believe it (the lack of zoning) is a deterrent to big business and good business because they can’t control who or what their neighbors could be following their investment.”
Dominion acquired 2,600 acres of land on East River Mountain near Bluefield, Va., in 2009 for the purpose of developing a large-scale wind turbine farm. However, the project was stalled in 2010 after the Board of Supervisors passed a ridgeline protection ordinance preventing the development of tall structures on certain protected ridgelines, including East River Mountain.
However, the company has since declined to relinquish its ownership of the property – despite offers from other developers who were interested in the land, Stacy said.
“They have indicated that they own the property and have no desire to sell the property to any other developers,” Stacy said. “We’ve had several other developers to express an interest in the property and we’ve put them in touch with (Dominion). But nobody’s called me up and said they might have a deal with them (Dominion).”
Stacy said the continued threat of wind turbines along East River Mountain is scaring away prospective industries and businesses that are interested in moving into the new Bluestone Regional Business and Technology Park near Bluefield, Va.
“I’ve had several of the residential developers to tell me they are very leery of pulling the trigger on the Bluestone if the threat of wind turbines are still there,” Stacy said.
Stacy said the zoning ordinance as currently proposed by the planning commission would only apply to the Eastern District. He said the proposed ordinance is only in the preliminary stages. Stacy said a series of public hearings will be scheduled by the planning commission, and citizens of the Eastern District will be given ample opportunity to provide input regarding the proposal. Stacy said the public hearings could begin later this year.
Stacy said it is his hope that future zoning would be considered for the other four districts of Tazewell County as well in the not too distant future.
“The Northern District has already indicated its desire to be zoned next,” Stacy said. “But simply because of its size, the planning commission voted to do it separately. The Eastern District is relatively small. Zoning the Eastern District will be much easier.”
Stacy said he understands the concerns that farmers and the agriculture communities may have to zoning, but is hopeful that a successful zoning ordinance in the Eastern District will help to alleviate their concerns.