Cumberland County commissioners will be asked to decide if they wish to establish regulations on land use in the unincorporated areas of Cumberland County when they meet Monday. In addition, the commission will consider a resolution joining with the Crossville City Council and state and national legislators in opposing the Crab Orchard Wind project.
The resolution to regulate land use, sponsored by Sandra Baxter Dutcher, 9th District commissioner, would require a two-thirds majority by the commission and any regulations proposed would also require a two-thirds majority to be enacted.
Crab Orchard Wind is a 71-megawatt wind farm proposed atop Millstone Mountain near Crab Orchard in eastern Cumberland County. According to Apex Green Energy, the company behind the project, Crab Orchard Wind would include 20 to 23 turbines that could reach a total height of 656 feet, from ground to tip of the turbine blade. The project has met resistance from some residents, particularly in the Fairfield Glade area.
Last month, Dutcher asked the commission to waive its rules and add a proposed resolution in opposition to the wind farm project to its June agenda. Nearly 100 supporters of the opposition resolution were in attendance with several speaking against the project during the public comment period — citing concerns about noise, property values, health, safety, suitability for the scenic area, and the effect on wildlife and the environment. Many also oppose the federal tax credits for the renewable energy source — production tax credits pay 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour produced in the first 10 years of production — saying wind energy projects are not viable without that support paid for by tax dollars.
Her motion failed 11-5.
Had it been successful, the resolution would have voiced opposition to the project but would do little, if anything, to stop the project as there are no land zoning regulations in Cumberland County and the land that will host the wind farm is privately owned, secured by a lease between the landowners and Apex.
Dutcher told the Fairfield Glade Community Club in June the county could adopt legislation to “abate or at least modify” the project. Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA) 6-2-201-22 gives municipalities the authority to “define, prohibit, abate, suppress, prevent and regulate all acts, practices, conduct, businesses, occupations, callings, trades, uses of property and all other things whatsoever detrimental, or liable to be detrimental, to the health, morals, comfort, safety, convenience or welfare of the inhabitants of the municipality, and exercise general police powers.”
That authority is extended to counties, in unincorporated areas, through TCA 5-1-118-(c)(1). According to County Technical Advisory Service in a July 2003 article, the power given to counties to regulate uses of property does not include activities regulated under other provisions of general law, such as surface mining, activities covered by environmental protection laws, and regulations dealing with air pollution, solid waste disposal, landfills, or production of oil and gas.
Tuesday, a site visit to nearby Oliver Springs, TN, to visit the wind farm atop Buffalo Mountain was held. Participating commissioners were Tom Isham, 2nd District commissioner; David Hassler, 3rd District commissioner; and Roy Turner, 7th District commissioner. The Chronicle was notified of the site visit and accompanied commissioners to the location.
Buffalo Mountain is at the intersection of Morgan, Anderson and Roane counties.
The mountain is host to two wind projects. TVA constructed three small turbines, each about 213 feet tall with 75-foot blades, in 2001. It was the first commercial use of wind energy in the Southeastern United States. In 2004, 15 larger turbines — 260 feet tall with 135-foot blades for a total height of 395 feet — were constructed by wind farm development company Invenergy. Today, Buffalo Mountain generates 29 megawatts, enough to power about 3,800 homes.
The site itself was a reclaimed coal mining site. It is privately owned property that has developed into an off-road tourist destination. The 72,000-acres of Windrock Park offer off-road trails for ATVs, dirt bikes, mountain bikes, Jeeps, 4X4s, trucks and more. It is the largest privately owned riding area in the country with more than 300 miles of trail riding and hiking. There is a campground and shooting range in the area, as well. Guests to the park, either looking to observe the wind turbines or those visiting for recreational purposes, must pay an admission fee. Windmill viewing is one of the most popular options at the park, with a permit available for $17 per vehicle to travel up the mountain road to the gate where a few of the windmills are visible.
The Cumberland County Commission will consider the resolutions sponsored by Dutcher at its July 18 meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. in the large meeting room of the Cumberland County Courthouse.