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Tazewell officials look to finalize revised zoning plan as early as Nov.

BLUEFIELD, Va. – A revised zoning plan for the Eastern District of Tazewell County could be finalized as early as November.

“We have what we feel is a final version that has been distributed to all of the planning commission members for their input,” Charles Stacy, the Eastern District member of the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors, said. “It is possible at the November planning commission meeting that they could make a recommendation to the board of supervisors. So it is about to come out of the planning commission, and would then go to the board of supervisors.”

Stacy said an amendment has been made to the proposed zoning ordinance at the request of Dominion Energy, which is still hoping to develop a large-scale commercial wind farm on top of scenic East River Mountain.

The company requested that the property Dominion currently owns on East River Mountain be zoned for multi-use. The land had originally been placed under the same zoning restrictions of the existing Bluestone Regional Business and Technology Park.

“If you look at the map of the Bluestone, what we did was try to create a buffer protecting the Bluestone Park, and that buffer was the mid-level designation to try to create a buffer inside of the Bluestone,” Stacy said. “We tried to do that and it touched the Dominion property, and when that designation was there they (Dominion) were vocal that they would rather see it in the multi-use. Their property touches the Bluestone and goes west.”

Stacy said members of the planning commission didn’t object to Dominion’s request. And the change wouldn’t impact the overall zoning ordinance, which would still prohibit the development of a large-scale wind turbine farm on East River Mountain, along with medical waste facilities and other developments that are considered undesirable.

“I felt that my calling when I was elected to the board of supervisors was to prevent East River Mountain from being developed with a commercial wind turbine farm,” Stacy said – adding that the revised draft zoning ordinance would still prohibit such a development.

Stacy said the board has received some criticism from state and national media sources for suggesting that green energy is “undesirable.” The comments were made in a recent “Washington Post” article about Tazewell County’s attempts to keep Dominion Energy from developing a wind turbine farm on East River Mountain.

Stacy said it wasn’t his intent to cast the wind energy industry in a negative light, but said the proposed Eastern District zoning ordinance is a “necessary evil.” He adds that other businesses interested in locating or expanding into the Eastern District, and the Bluestone Technology Park in particular, have been reluctant to sign on the dotted line without an assurance that wind turbines will not be developed on the mountain.

“I just say it’s kind of a necessary evil, and I think this is a perfect opportunity for us to do it (zoning) in a pilot program, and then watch and see if it bolsters economic development in the Eastern District.”

As currently proposed, the zoning plan would prohibit certain “undesirable developments,” including wind turbines and medical waste facilities. It would not prohibit or impact residential, rural residential, and multi-use developments including agriculture, industrial and forestry.

Dominion acquired more than 2,600 acres of land on East River Mountain near Bluefield, Va., in 2009 for the purpose of developing a proposed large-scale wind turbine farm. The county supervisors later adopted the so-called tall structure ordinance that intended to protect certain ridgelines, including East River Mountain.