- National Wind Watch: Wind Energy News - https://www.wind-watch.org/news -

District zoning: Big decision awaits Eastern District

Tazewell County is one of only six counties in the Commonwealth of Virginia without a zoning ordinance in the books. And that’s a concern to Charlie Stacy, chairman of the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors.

Stacy, who has been at the forefront of the anti-wind turbine movement in the county’s Eastern District in recent years, says the county’s planning commission is working on a proposed zoning ordinance just for the Eastern District of Tazewell County. But he is hopeful that the remaining four districts in the county can be zoned in the near future as well.

That may not be easy, as the farming and agricultural community in Tazewell County has been largely resistant so far to the concept of zoning. But depending upon how the proposed zoning ordinance for the county’s Eastern District turns out, it is possible that attitudes could change in the future as it relates to zoning.

Stacy says the planning commission members have indicated that they will also consider a zoning plan for the county’s Northern District, which is much larger in size and includes the Falls Mills, Boissevain, Pocahontas, and Abbs Valley communities.

Zoning is important in that it provides protection to communities from undesirable developments. Stacy says the zoning plan being considered for the Eastern District, which is largely composed of the greater Bluefield, Va., and Springville areas, would be a broad ordinance that designates most of the district as mixed use. But he says the proposed zoning plan would include a “laundry list” of prohibited developments, including wind turbines and medical waste facilities.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the continued threat of wind turbines on scenic East River Mountain is the driving force behind the proposed zoning of the Eastern District. Stacy says the continued threat of wind turbines along East River Mountain is scaring away prospective industries, businesses and residential developments 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 tell me they are very leery of pulling the trigger on the Bluestone if the threat of wind turbines are still there,” Stacy told the Daily Telegraph last week.

Dominion acquired 2,600 acres of land on East River Mountain near Bluefield, Va., back 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 – which argues that the proposed wind farm would create millions of dollars in new tax revenue for Tazewell County while helping to reinforce the region’s electrical grid – has yet to relinquish its ownership of the property.

Stacy says the proposed zoning ordinance is still in the preliminary stages. A series of public hearings will be scheduled throughout the Eastern District to receive input before a final decision is made. And citizen input during these upcoming public hearings will be critical. Zoning is a big step, and that’s why all citizens of the Eastern District should have a say on this proposal.

In the meantime, we applaud the county’s planning commission and the board of supervisors for giving meaningful consideration to zoning. And we would strongly encourage our neighboring West Virginia localities, including the Mercer County Commission in particular, to, at the very least, begin a meaningful discussion on both the pros and cons of zoning.

After all, it could be only a matter of time before a wind farm or medical waste facility is proposed for neighboring Mercer County. It’s always better to be prepared than caught off guard, as Tazewell County was back in 2009.