TAZEWELL, Va. — Talk of a proposed zoning ordinance has alarmed Bill Osborne, and many of his neighbors living in farming communities across Tazewell County.
“My personal house where I live right now will not meet the present zoning requirement,” Osborne, a former sheriff who now serves as the president of the Tazewell Farm Bureau, said. “It would be classified as a non-complier.”
Osborne said the Tazewell Farm Bureau is opposed to the zoning ordinance. The ordinance in question would cover just the Eastern District. But Osborne said many fear that zoning will be extended to neighboring districts as well. The zoning ordinance currently being proposed by the county Board of Supervisors would restrict certain developments within the Eastern District, including wind turbines and medical waste incinerators.
“The main thing I want to emphasize is this will not only affect the farmers, but it will affect 90 percent of the citizens in the county because their homes were built before the subdivisions were developed,” Osborne said. “Everyone needs to read this thing and try to understand it.”
A joint public hearing between the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors and the Tazewell County Planning Commission will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 16, at 6 p.m. at the board of supervisors meeting room in Tazewell. The purpose of the meeting is to hear from citizens regarding the zoning plan. A large crowd is expected at the public hearing.
Osborne said the zoning plan is another burdensome layer of government bureaucracy.
“That just creates problems, and a mindset that they are trying to take our land,” Osborne said. “And also when you have zoning, a zoning administrator has almost dictatorial powers. It’s just another layer of bureaucracy. Another thing too is the cost of zoning. For instance, the entire county would be paying for the cost of this zoning administrator and his staff. And some people will start to say if we have to pay the cost, we should be getting the benefit of it.”
Osborne, and other farmers in Tazewell County, are concerned about several clauses included in the draft zoning ordinance, including sections dealing with a “livestock containment area” which must be 500 feet away from any property line, and other sections dealing with “farm employee housing and “commercial feedlots.”
Letters impacting all affected property owners within the Eastern District were mailed out earlier this month. Those letters, in return, have led to a lot of calls and inquiries about the proposed ordinance, according to earlier comments by Charles Stacy, the board’s Eastern District supervisor.
“You still have a group of people that are opposed to zoning,” Stacy said in the earlier interview. “A large majority of them are coming from out of the district, and they are fearful that this is step-one in a county-wide zoning ordinance.”
However, zoning is only proposed for the Eastern District, and there are no current plans for zoning in other districts of the county, Stacy said.
If adopted as currently proposed, the zoning ordinance could impact the ability of Virginia Dominion Power to construct a large-scale wind turbine farm proposed for East River Mountain.
Dominion acquired 2,600 acres of land high atop East River Mountain in 2009 for the purpose of building a large-scale commercial wind turbine farm. The company says the project would provide 150 jobs during the three-year construction period and generate an estimated $22 million in tax revenues for Tazewell County over a 25-year time. The project would create about 10 permanent jobs.
Osborne said the tall structure ordinance adopted by the county several years ago already addresses the wind turbine issue. But he also believes that wind turbines will eventually be constructed on East River Mountain.
“I don’t believe the ordinance will stand because as you know the federal government under President Obama has issued a proclamation to the major producing powers that by 2025 30 percent of their power must be from renewable energy,” Osborne said.
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