EDENTON – Chowan commissioners approved amendments this week to the permit for the proposed Timbermill wind farm project.
Commissioners signed off on Timbermill’s plans for a new collection substation, an interconnection substation and a transmission line connecting the two facilities.
Henry C. Campen Jr., an attorney with Parker Poe, the firm representing the project’s developers, explained during an evidentiary hearing why amending Timbermill’s conditional use permit did not substantially change the company’s project. He also said no evidence had been presented to commissioners opposing Timbermill’s application for the change, and that the burden for presenting that evidence falls on the project’s opponents.
“For these reasons, we submit to you that Timbermill has submitted a complete application and that it is within the commission’s jurisdiction to decide. There is no evidence, no substantial evidence of any kind, based on this report to deny this application,” he said.
Commissioner Ron Cummings and Patti Kersey voted against amending the permit because they felt the changes did not meet 2 of the 4 criteria for approving the Conditional Use Permit.
Kersey and Cummings said based on the information submitted, the amended application would not be in harmony with the area in which the project will be located nor would it conform with the county’s Land Use Plan.
The Chowan Planning Board had previously voted to recommend approval of the transmission right of way and substation application.
After the meeting, however, former Chowan Commissioner Alex Kehayes discussed his objections to Timbermill’s request.
As the lone member of the Board of Commissioners to vote against approving Timbermill’s conditional use permit in 2016, Kehayes used an analogy to talk about the company’s latest plans. He compared Timbermill’s request to having a contractor build a house and then, when the time came to build a garage that blended with the home’s design, the contractor built a log cabin instead.
Applying that line of reasoning to Timbermill’s request for a permit change, Kehayes noted the transmission lines were originally to be placed underground whereas the amended permit allows for six miles of lines to be placed above ground. Kehayes said if that is not a substantial change, then he doesn’t know what it is.
Kehayes said he’s done extensive research on wind farms and claims that the setbacks between wind turbines and neighboring structures in the proposed Timbermill project need to be increased. He also questions the project’s projected noise levels.
Kersey expressed the same reservations.
Timbermill officials Tracy Butler, Don Giecek and Drew Silverman, however, say that noise created by the turbines would be minimal and that the project’s setback requirements comply with regulatory standards.
Commissioner John Mitchener asked about the decommissioning process of the wind farm should it ever be required.
Timbermill officials said the $7 million bond they’ve posted would be available to pay for decommissioning costs.
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