James City County supervisors remove support for state’s commitment to carbon-free power from 2045 comprehensive plan
Statements in James City County’s Comprehensive Plan Update supporting green initiatives such as alternative energy and planning for heavier rainfall associated with climate change have split the Board of Supervisors.
The board narrowly backed the removal of support for the state’s commitment to 100% carbon-free power by 2045 at its Tuesday meeting as it reviewed the draft planning blueprint up to 2045.
Vice-chair Sue Sadler sought to remove four environmental measures from the plan during a discussion of the Comprehensive Plan Update. Sadler expressed her concern over the noise of wind turbines. Chairman Michael Hipple, who also backed the removal of the four items, expressed skepticism over global warming.
Supervisors John McGlennon and Jim Icenhour backed the retention of the measures in the plan. Ruth Larson supported the removal of the commitment to 100% carbon free power by 2045, but called for more information on other measures before reaching a decision.
Sadler described the aims as “a little lofty, unachievable and unmeasurable” and instead said they should be addressed in the state’s legislative agenda.
She opposed a statement to “support the commonwealth of Virginia’s commitment to 100% carbon-free power by 2045.”
Sadler also opposed a policy relating to the development of watershed management plans that would “explore the inclusion of ecosystem services considerations and evaluation of climate change-related precipitation impact in future watershed management plans.”
She called for the removal of a statement to “investigate ways to amend the county ordinances to support alternative energy production, and to amend ordinances or include special-use permit conditions that protect and enhance natural resource on alternative energy production sites.”
McGlennon opposed the removal of the items saying they reflected the need to adjust the county’s ordinances to take account of changes in the community.
“We have seen extensive increases in rainfall. We are having much more frequent 100-year storms than we used to have. We are looking at applications coming forward involving new technologies that relate to renewable energy sources,” he said.
James City County has seen at least three applications for solar farms in recent months.
McGlennon said the county needs to revise its ordinances to take the new technologies and environmental concerns into account.
He said the changes would be responding to what is already happening to ensure the county is better prepared for renewable energy applications.
“The public expects us to act decisively in trying to improve the environment,” he said.
Sadler called for “something more measurable” related to costs. She also raised concerns over windfarm and solar applications.
“To say that we are going to be 100% carbon neutral. I don’t know how you measure that,” she said.
“Are we going to have a windmill on every corner?” Sadler asked.
“There are communities across the country, I’ve read, that are complaining about windmills. They are too loud. They have noise issues,” she added.
Hipple was skeptical about global warming, “It wasn’t long ago sitting in school as a child and remembering we were being taught the ice age is coming and it was getting colder. Now we are being told it’s heating up and we are going to melt,” he said. Hipple said the additional provisions could “trip us up.” He said James City County has an impressive record in stormwater management.
Icenhour said he was uncomfortable with the removal of the sections. He said the statements in the plan are aspirational. “We are not being asked to take any action,” he said.
“We talk about climate change and sea level rise. That will have an impact,” he said.
Larson backed the removal of support for the commonwealth’s commitment to achieve 100% carbon-free power by 2045. She supported the measure to explore the evaluation of the impact of heavier rainfall on future watershed management plans, but asked for more information on measures such as the support for support alternative energy.
Frank Polster, the planning commission member behind the inclusion of many of the green policies in the plan, warned sea level rise will lead to increased flooding by 2040-2050 in James City County.
“Chickahominy Haven by 2040 is going to have excessive flooding,” he said. “The flooding will cause those sewer systems to fail.”
He said an ordinance could allow people to obtain low-cost loans to alleviate the issues.
Paul Holt, director, Community Development/Planning Director, said county staff will further investigate the statements and report back to the board.
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