BLUEFIELD, Va. — The developer of a planned large-scale wind turbine farm for East River Mountain is voicing concerns over a proposed Eastern District zoning ordinance.
Dominion Virginia Power submitted a letter Friday to the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors and the Tazewell County Planning Commission detailing various objections to the proposed zoning ordinance while also reinforcing plans for the future development of the wind farm project on East River Mountain, near Bluefield, Va.
In the letter, Jim Eck, vice president of business development for Dominion, said the company “remains convinced” that Tazewell County has the necessary resources for the development of a utility scale wind project, adding that the best way to address the energy needs of Virginia is through an “all of the above” approach that includes nuclear, coal, natural gas, hydro, solar and wind. Eck adds in the letter that Dominion wishes “to preserve our option to responsible develop” the wind turbine project on East River Mountain.
However, Eck also voices concerns in the letter over the proposed Eastern District draft ordinance, arguing that the proposed zoning plan taken in conjunction with the existing tall structure ordinance would appear to establish a local policy that “significantly deters wind development” and is “inconsistent” with the recommending rezoning of land adjacent to the 2,600 acres of property owned by Dominion on East River Mountain.
“Isolating only Dominion Virginia Power’s property with this restrictive zoning seems arbitrary,” Eck said in the letter to Travis hackworth, chairman of the Tazewell County Planning Commission. The letter also was forwarded to the individual board members, and to Interim County Administrator Patricia Green and Tazewell County Attorney Eric Young.
Charles Stacy, the Eastern District Board of Supervisors member, said Friday that he views Dominion’s letter as a “formal objection” to the proposed Eastern District zoning ordinance.
“I think they are certainly going to take every approach possible to say we are singling out this industrial wind project with this ordinance, and that would be a legal challenge they could raise,” Stacy said. “This ordinance in my opinion is a death blow to that project. They perceive it that way. Now whether they would abandon that project if that ordinance is here — I don’t know. But we were very clear to them in (2009) that the community didn’t want this project.”
Stacy said the majority of those citizens living in the Eastern District today appear to remain largely opposed to the idea of a large-scale wind turbine farm on scenic East River Mountain. But based upon feedback received during the first public comment period of the proposed draft ordinance, Stacy said the board is going back and revising the proposal to reflect comments received from citizens.
“We did informational meetings in Bluefield and Springville back in May, and those resulted in a tremendous amount of input and comment,” Stacy said. “We are trying to add that feedback into it. So we are back to the drafting phase trying to incorporate as much of the citizen comment as we can. And then we are going to take it back out to the community again once we have that revised version as well.”
Stacy said some citizens were confused — thinking the draft zoning ordinance was annexation, which isn’t correct. As currently proposed, the zoning plan would prohibit certain “undesirable developments,” including wind turbines and medical waste facilities. It would not prohibit or impact residential, rural residential, and multi-use developments including agriculture, industrial and forestry.
Dominion acquired more than 2,600 acres of land on East River Mountain near Bluefield, Va., in 2009 for the purpose of developing a proposed large-scale wind turbine farm. The county supervisors later adopted the so-called tall structure ordinance that intended to protect certain ridgelines, including East River Mountain.
Stacy said wind energy hasn’t lived up to its billing.
“As time has gone on wind energy has been exposed to be a very, very unproductive energy source,” Stacy said. “It is a tremendous drain on the tax dollars of Americans, and is part of the portfolio responsible for the war on coal that we are seeing directly.”