The Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce has decided to jump into the debate surrounding wind energy, issuing a position statement in favor of amending language in ordinances that allow turbines to be built within county borders.
The chamber says it supports a proposal to modify current zoning laws by removing language “providing special exception for wind turbine power generation farms in Wayne County and to replace such wording by requiring the application for a special use variance.”
Wayne County Advisory Plan Commission will have a public hearing on the proposal at 6 p.m. Monday at the county annex building.
The chamber, which adopted the position after a majority vote by its board of directors this week, said the amendment would allow for each request to “be considered on a ‘case-by-case’ basis … in order for Wayne County to establish specific requirements and restrictions on each site, in the event of any future application and consideration of this industry (in the county).”
The chamber often issues statements in favor of or opposed to policy changes when they are expected to impact businesses and people who live and work in Wayne County. In its statement, the chamber also encouraged citizens to attend Monday’s public hearing.
Chamber President Phil D’Amico, who was hired in October, said the statement reflects the uncertainty many in the area have about the long-term impact of wind turbines on the county and its landscape. He said the chamber listened to all sides of the argument, including those who are in favor as well as those opposed to the building of turbines in the county.
“This is a really complicated issue. … We aren’t saying we are against wind or other (alternative energies) because we certainly aren’t against that,” D’Amico said. “We just really don’t have enough information to say, ‘Yes, bring all the turbines you want to the county.’ There’s just not enough information about what effect these (turbines) will have here.”
He said the most important part of the proposed amendment, about which there has been much conversation in the community, is that it would allow officials to settle the matter on a case-by-case basis. D’Amico said many in the area who have responded to the chamber’s position have done so in agreement with the stance.
“We’ve heard a lot of people say they (appreciate) what we had to say and feel the same way about the matter,” he said. “Certainly, we’ve had people who don’t see things the same way, but most of the feedback on this has been positive.”
Kathy Cruz-Uribe, president of the chamber’s board, said the statement went through several drafts before it was finalized and approved by the group. She said it was important to ensure the chamber’s position was precise, as well as fair.
“There’s already been quite a lively discussion about this issue throughout the county, and we believe our position in favor (of the amendment) is the best way for people to learn all they need to – all the facts – about what impact this might have on the community,” she said.
“We really went back and forth on the wording and fine-tuning this statement because it’s a really important topic and we wanted to make sure that people know what the issue at hand is.”
Richmond businessman Roger Richert, who is opposed to extensive swaths of wind turbines being erected in Wayne County, said Friday he “wholeheartedly agrees with the chamber’s statement.”
Richert said he believes there’s wisdom in the chamber’s statement that changing the county ordinances is the best solution.
“I 100 percent agree with them and am thankful for their decision to (listen to the community),” Richert said. “I think it’s really good they did that.”
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