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Planners endorse wind energy ordinance

Rockbridge County is a step closer to having a wind energy ordinance on the books. The Planning Commission last week recommended adoption of the ordinance as well as approval of the first application for a wind energy system - two micro turbines that are to go on top of Howard Johnson's Hotel. The wind energy ordinance was supported by several citizens who spoke during a public hearing.

Rockbridge County is a step closer to having a wind energy ordinance on the books.

The Planning Commission last week recommended adoption of the ordinance as well as approval of the first application for a wind energy system - two micro turbines that are to go on top of Howard Johnson's Hotel.

The wind energy ordinance was supported by several citizens who spoke during a public hearing.

"Anything we can do to encourage sustainable energy systems [is beneficial]," said Eric Sheffield, adding that the ordinance contains "good protections for neighbors."

Sheffield said he would even go a step further by writing an ordinance to allow industrial wind systems. He noted that we're currently importing energy from "dirty coal, dirty nuclear" power plants and "non-sustainable" oil sources.

He advised the Commission to plan for industrial wind energy before a specific proposal is made. "It would certainly be controversial. Highland County has had a lot of opposition [to an industrial wind farm planned there]."

He said he viewed wind energy as "beautiful because it's clean energy."

Alexia Smith of the Rockbridge Area Conservation Council said she saw the ordinance as a "good response to the coming changes in... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Rockbridge County is a step closer to having a wind energy ordinance on the books.

The Planning Commission last week recommended adoption of the ordinance as well as approval of the first application for a wind energy system - two micro turbines that are to go on top of Howard Johnson's Hotel.

The wind energy ordinance was supported by several citizens who spoke during a public hearing.

"Anything we can do to encourage sustainable energy systems [is beneficial]," said Eric Sheffield, adding that the ordinance contains "good protections for neighbors."

Sheffield said he would even go a step further by writing an ordinance to allow industrial wind systems. He noted that we're currently importing energy from "dirty coal, dirty nuclear" power plants and "non-sustainable" oil sources.

He advised the Commission to plan for industrial wind energy before a specific proposal is made. "It would certainly be controversial. Highland County has had a lot of opposition [to an industrial wind farm planned there]."

He said he viewed wind energy as "beautiful because it's clean energy."

Alexia Smith of the Rockbridge Area Conservation Council said she saw the ordinance as a "good response to the coming changes in the world."

She addressed one issue that has been a concern, the threat to birds posed by wind turbines. Mortality rates for birds in the vicinity of wind farms, with one notable exception, don't appear to be very high, she said, though she acknowledged that there hasn't been much research conducted on small wind turbines.

Smith did offer two suggestions for the ordinance. She asked that the towers holding the turbines be poles rather than lattices, and be of a neutral color.

Sam Crickenberger, the county's director of planning, said Smith's suggestions could be incorporated into the ordinance.

Catherine Campbell said she's in favor of wind energy, though she does have a concern about protecting viewscapes.

Commission member David Winston responded by pointing out that under the proposed ordinance, a wind energy system would be permitted only by special exception. During the public hearing process, citizens would be able to express their concerns about obstructed views, he said.

Phillip Coulling said there's a Web-based mapping resource that can be used to show the location of suitable wind energy sites. He suggested this be incorporated as a layer in the county's geographic information system that's accessible on the county's Web site.

Crickenberger said it's his understanding that the most likely site in the county for a wind energy farm would be Short Hills because of its elevation and proximity to power lines. The Blue Ridge, which otherwise would be a potential location for an industrial wind system, has been ruled out because of the federal protections for views from the Blue Ridge Parkway, he said.

Commission member Chris Wise said a separate ordinance that addresses industrial wind systems could be looked at later.

A motion by John Houser to recommend adoption of the ordinance governing small wind energy systems passed 4-0.

The ordinance, which now goes to the Board of Supervisors for final approval, would allow by special exception in all zoning districts wind turbines on free-standing towers that are up to 100 feet high, and micro-systems with turbines mounted on rooftops that are up to 15 feet above the highest point of the roofline.

The minimum lot size for a wind energy system is to be two acres, with required setbacks of 110 percent of the height of the tower to an adjoining property, and 150 percent to any habitable dwelling on a neighboring property. The turbines can't be any louder than 60 decibels - considered "conversational level" - as heard from an adjoining property.

The Commission then took up Howard Johnson's application for installing two 10-foottall micro turbines atop the lodging facility off of U.S. 11 at Timber Ridge, north of Lexington. The turbines are to generate only about 1 percent of the hotel's energy needs, but are part of a larger effort to promote cleaner, more efficient energy practices.

Noting the plans were "largely symbolic for advertising purposes, but a good first step," Winston made a motion to recommend approval of the special exception permit that passed 4-0.

Howard Johnson's plans must be approved by the Tourism Corridor Overlay Review Board and the Board of Supervisors.

The supervisors will consider the ordinance and Howard Johnson's application at their next meeting this Monday, Nov. 24.

The ordinance would allow by special exception in all zoning districts wind turbines on free-standing towers that are up to 100 feet high.


Source: http://www.thenews-gazette....

NOV 20 2008
http://www.windaction.org/posts/17977-planners-endorse-wind-energy-ordinance
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