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Planners to decide if wind meets county goals

MONTEREY— Yet another decision awaits county officials about Highland New Wind Development’s plan to erect a 39-megawatt wind plant atop Allegheny Mountain.

Virginia law requires the local planning commission to review the developer’s application specifically for whether it is “substantially in accord” with Highland’s comprehensive plan. And that, it seems, is a subjective thing to define.

In what’s dubbed a “2232 review,” based on state code, planners will hold a public hearing Tuesday, April 18, and vote the following day on the issue. The commission will either approve the project proposal as in harmony with the land use plan, or not in accordance with it. Planners could also choose to make no recommendation at all, which would be interpreted as approval.

Should the commission decide not to recommend approving the project under this review, HNWD could appeal to the board of supervisors. The board has the authority to overrule the commission in such a decision.

At the planners’ regular meeting last Thursday, commission chair Jim Cobb told his colleagues what he’d learned about the review, and urged them all to do their own research prior to the hearing and vote next month. “This issue before us is narrow,” he said. “We have to determine whether (the project) is in ‘substantial accordance’ with the comprehensive plan.”

Cobb noted the decision will not involve many of the... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Virginia law requires the local planning commission to review the developer’s application specifically for whether it is “substantially in accord” with Highland’s comprehensive plan. And that, it seems, is a subjective thing to define.
 
In what’s dubbed a “2232 review,” based on state code, planners will hold a public hearing Tuesday, April 18, and vote the following day on the issue. The commission will either approve the project proposal as in harmony with the land use plan, or not in accordance with it. Planners could also choose to make no recommendation at all, which would be interpreted as approval.
 
Should the commission decide not to recommend approving the project under this review, HNWD could appeal to the board of supervisors. The board has the authority to overrule the commission in such a decision.
 
At the planners’ regular meeting last Thursday, commission chair Jim Cobb told his colleagues what he’d learned about the review, and urged them all to do their own research prior to the hearing and vote next month. “This issue before us is narrow,” he said. “We have to determine whether (the project) is in ‘substantial accordance’ with the comprehensive plan.”
 
Cobb noted the decision will not involve many of the issues that have surrounded the project in its debate so far, including construction, traffic, and environmental impacts, none of which will be “rehashed” at the hearing.
 
Further, he stressed, if citizens speaking at the hearing stray from the issue at hand, “they’ll be deemed out of order,” he said. “Everyone should be prepared to cite the page and paragraph of the comprehensive plan” they are referring to, he added.
 
Cobb also said he will ask each member of the planning commission for their comments on the matter before any motions are made. “I’m serious about this,” he told The Recorder Tuesday. “I want to hear what they have to say and I will absolutely ask them for their opinion on everything they’ve learned, what they’ve researched. There have been too many times lately where people don’t give their opinions.”
 
If the commission approves of the project under the review, “it ends right there,” he told planners. “If we say it isn’t (in accord with the plan), Highland New Wind Development gets to appeal.”
 
Cobb said he’d called a number of people for opinions on what it means for a project to be substantially in accordance with a land use plan, and the best explanation he’d received was from a planning expert, Dr. Michael Chandler, director of education for the Virginia Certified Planning Commission Association, who told him to think about whether the application “reflected” being in accordance with the comprehensive plan, or supported the “notion” of being in accordance. “Obviously every page of the comp plan will need to be looked at,” Cobb said this week.
 
Also, he emphasized to the commission, “Based on my and (planner) Doug Gutshall’s one and a half hours with (county attorney Melissa Dowd), we’re not there at the public hearing to make any technical findings.” Whether the turbines would have detrimental impacts to migratory birds and bats, or whether they’d interfere with air flights, those were all technical findings, he said.
 
The planning commission had hoped to have a staff report last week prepared by building and zoning official Jim Whitelaw. Dowd said Whitelaw had put one together, but she and county-hired attorney Greg Haley had not had time to review it yet. Since the supervisors’ decision to grant HNWD’s conditional use permit was under litigation, Dowd said she and Haley felt they should take a close look at Whitelaw’s report before it was in the planners’ hands. “I anticipate (the report) will be presented to you by mail in ample time for you to review it before the public hearing,” Dowd told the commission members.
 
By late Wednesday, the report was completed. In general Whitelaw said, the project was in many ways compatible with comprehensive land use goals. However, he noted the view shed issues that had been raised by citizens, and cited the potential conflict with U.S. 250 as a scenic corridor in the county (see sidebar below).
 
Planners agreed to schedule the hearing for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 18, and will try to secure the courthouse as a location.
 
Since the decision requires the commission to provide written comment to supervisors, members agreed not to vote until the following day, Wednesday, April 19, at a 7:30 meeting in the Highland Modular Conference Center.


Source: http://therecorderonline.co...

MAR 30 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/1948-planners-to-decide-if-wind-meets-county-goals
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