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Perquimans denies permit for $300M wind power project

HERTFORD – Perquimans County commissioners have rejected a proposed $300 million wind farm, voting 3-2 Monday night to deny the project a conditional use permit.

A majority of the board’s five members favored the project, but individually three had problems with at least some aspect of Apex Clean Energy’s Timbermill Wind proposal.

Commissioners had to vote individually on four conditions. If a majority of commissioners opposed the project on any one of the conditions, the permit could not be granted.

All five commissioners agreed Apex had met the burden of proof on two conditions – that a wind farm would not damage public health and safety and that the project met the requirements of the county’s wind farm ordnance.

But when it came to the question of whether the project would “substantially” injure adjoining property owners, both Commissioners Fondella Leigh and Wallace Nelson weren’t convinced that it wouldn’t.

When it came to the fourth condition – whether the project would be in “harmony” with surrounding properties, Commissioner Kyle Jones joined Leigh and Nelson in voting that it would not be.

Only two commissioners – board Chairwoman Janice Cole and Commissioner Ed Muzzulin – voted that the Timbermill Wind project met all four conditions.

After the vote on the four conditions, the board had to take a final vote on the project as whole and give it a thumbs up or thumbs down.

“They boxed themselves into a corner,” said Leary Winslow, one of the opponents of the Timbermill Wind project.

He was referring to how could a commissioner could vote “yes” on the overall project after they had voted “no” on one or more conditions for issuing the permit.

A sixth commissioner, Matt Peeler, was recused from voting because a majority of the board said he had demonstrated that he had already made up his mind to oppose the Timbermill Wind permit before public hearings on Apex’s request started. Peeler was in attendance at Monday’s commissioners meeting. Instead of sitting at the commissioners table however, he was seated in the audience.

“I thought of a lot of ways this (vote) could go, but I didn’t see this one coming,” Peeler said after the meeting.

Apex officials had no immediate comment on commissioners’ decision.

But Tommy Harrell, one of the property owners who has fought against the wind project, said he was “exuberant.”

“It’s been a hard, emotional battle to protect what is ours,” he said.