Botetourt County is one step closer to being the first site in the commonwealth of Virginia to have a wind farm. Thirty-nine other states have wind farms currently.
On Jan. 11, for two-and-a-half hours, Botetourt’s Planning Commission went over the specs for APEX Clean Energy’s permit and a special-exception permit for Rocky Forge, a proposed wind farm on property owned by Jerry Fraley off Daggers Springs Road on North Mountain.
After questions and a public hearing, the planning commission unanimously approved the two items. The proposals now go to the Botetourt Board of Supervisors later this month.
There were informative presentations from Nicole Pendleton, Botetourt’s planning manager and zoning administrator; officials from APEX, including Tyson Utt and Charles Johnson; and the hired consultant at Antares Inc., who also previewed the applications and made recommendations.
Neighboring Rockbridge County asked the planners to delay review of the project in a letter, but the planning commission moved ahead.
During the public hearing, 14 people addressed the commission. Three had concerns with wind energy in general. A fourth person expressed support for the project but worried about dust and traffic on the construction area roads. The other 10 were in favor.
Said Lynn Diuzniewski of Fincastle: “I want to know about the lighting used for the FFA and how it will appear in the night.”
The windmills will be over 525 feet tall. It is expected there will be 25 of them on-site when the project is completed.
Neighbor Henry Gum said, “I have no problem with them, and I will see them every day.”
After the hearing, the five commission members, Hi Nicely, John Griffin, Bill Thurman, Sam Foster and Steve Kidd, questioned Johnson from APEX about mentioned concerns.
In the end, the commission members all supported the project.
There are 17 items on the conditions list presented by Pendleton for APEX to address, including noise, dust, flicker shadow, lighting, updated concept plan, hours of construction, emergency response, a building and a laydown area for construction, decommission, remedies and compliance and dealing with everything from government agencies to neighbors and traffic.
Johnson noted that APEX takes seriously the 17 conditions and is also working with agencies after a year-long study of the historical, cultural, natural and wildlife concerns surrounding the project. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the DEQ and the FAA are among the agencies APEX must receive permits from to complete the project.
Botetourt County spent a year crafting the ordinances for wind energy with staff, planners, the planning commission and the board of supervisors, which passed the wind energy ordinances in the summer.
If approved by the board of supervisors, Johnson said it is expected that the Rocky Forge wind project will be up and running by the fourth quarter of 2017. The 25 windmills will be placed along the southern-end ridge line of North Mountain. On the direct site, there will be six or seven full-time jobs. The proposed project will generate enough power for over 20,000 homes.
The economic benefit to Botetourt County is estimated at $4.5 million per year.
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