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Botetourt County passes ordinance to open the door for wind farms

What Botetourt County is preaching as responsible, some residents like Van Velzer are saying is bad for the county. "This is not a restrictive ordinance, this is an accommodating ordinance," he said.

At the Board of Supervisors meeting last night, leaders formalized what a company would need to do if it wanted to build one.

Southwest Virginia has a well-documented history of opposing efforts to bring large-scale wind energy to the area.

Botetourt County leaders held nearly ten public meetings on the topic to make sure if they allowed it, they did it the right way.   They unanimously passed their plan yesterday, but today, some residents still aren't happy.

In 2011, a company was planning on building wind turbines on Poor Mountain in Roanoke County.   Dozens of citizens voiced their disagreement, the project hasn't breathed life since.

"The ordinance accepted last night, I think, throws down the welcome mat," resident Bil Van Velzer says, and not in a good way.

What Botetourt County is preaching as responsible, some residents like Van Velzer are saying is bad for the county.

"This is not a restrictive ordinance, this is an accommodating ordinance," he said.

"We also looked at other localities in the state and some across the country just to get an idea of what are best practices for wind ordinances," Cody Sexton said.

Sexton is a spokesman for Botetourt County. He says, over the past six months, Botetourt County allowed for plenty of public comment and did extensive research on the guidelines a prospective company would have to follow.

"Doing studies on wind, wildlife impact, environmental impact, height restrictions, color, other size restrictions, safety," Sexton says, to name a few.

The Board of Supervisors would also have final say on approving a proposal.

Despite all that, Bill Van Velzer has concerns; especially regarding property values and the possibility that one farm could lead to many more.

"I really think this was a step in a very, very slippery slope," to more farms, Van Velzer said.

"As they were going through the bullet points, I found myself shaking my head saying you know, yeah, that ought to be looked into," Chuck Bartocci said.

Chuck Bartocci is an expert on wind energy and runs a wind turbine servicing program at Dabney Lancaster Community College in Alleghany County.

He says he's neutral on the whole idea, but thinks the county is going about this whole ordinance in a very practical way.   The best evidence of that to him: The county's insistence that any company wanting to put turbines up needs to give assurances that they can be taken down.

"Rather than saying 'give me the jobs! give me the jobs!' they were saying, 'we'll look to taking these facilities, but you've got to look to some way of decommissioning them," Bartocci said.

We know at least one company is at least interested in building a wind farm in Botetourt County and whether it happens remains to be seen.

But, for the first time in Botetourt County, we know it can.

It's still too early to tell the size and scale of a possible investment since this ordinance has just opened a door for the county to start listening to proposals.

Chuck Bartocci says the number of short-term jobs could be large, long term jobs would depend on the size of the investment.


Source: http://www.wdbj7.com/news/l...

JUN 24 2015
http://www.windaction.org/posts/43107-botetourt-county-passes-ordinance-to-open-the-door-for-wind-farms
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