HERTFORD — The Virginia firm looking to build a $400 million wind-energy project in Perquimans and Chowan counties has appealed Perquimans officials’ decision to deny the firm a permit to build wind turbines in the county.
Apex Clean Energy filed the appeal for its Timbermill project in Perquimans County Superior Court on Tuesday. Opponents of the project planned to file a cross petition Wednesday supporting the Perquimans Board of Commissioners’ decision denying the permit.
Apex wants to build 104 turbines in Perquimans and Chowan counties, each nearly 600 feet tall. Chowan officials approved the company’s request for a conditional use permit for the part of the Timbermill project in that county. Perquimans commissioners, however, denied Apex’s permit request in their county after three members of the board expressed concerns that the project either would negatively affect property values or wouldn’t be in “harmony” with surrounding land uses.
Apex announced Wednesday it plans to proceed with the Chowan part of its wind energy project while it appeals the decision by Perquimans commissioners.
“We remain hopeful that the Superior Court will reverse the Perquimans County denial of Timbermill’s permit,” said Don Giecek, senior manager of project development for Apex. “This (reversal) would allow the project to meet its full potential. In the meantime, we will also continue developing the project in Chowan County and pursuing the other state and federal permits required for the project.”
Perquimans County Manager Frank Heath said the county now has 45 days to submit transcripts and other documents related to Apex’s permit request to the court. Heath said he wasn’t sure what would happen after that.
Chad Essick, the attorney who represented property owners opposed to the Timbermill project, could not be reached for comment. However, Leary Winslow, one of the residents who hired Essick, expressed dismay about Apex’s decision to appeal commissioners’ denial of their permit request.
“We are disappointed that Apex cannot accept the decision of our county commissioners on behalf of the residents of Perquimans County,” Winslow said. “In an abundance of caution and in order to preserve additional and alternative grounds for denying the permit, we will be filing a cross petition later today.”
Supporters of the Apex project say it will allow farming and timber operations to continue operating. The actual footprint of each turbine is only about an acre. They also point to the lease revenue property owners would earn from allowing Apex to use their land.
For taxpayers, the conservative estimate is that the Timbermill project would generate at least $250,000 in property taxes to Perquimans County annually, and a like amount for Chowan County.
Opponents argue allowing Apex to build the wind turbines would cause health and safety problems and lower property values.
So far, Apex has paid Perquimans County’s legal expenses related to the Timbermill project. As part of the process for applying for a conditional use permit, Perquimans required Apex to deposit $50,000 into an account to cover county expenses related to the application.
Heath said the county used about $5,000 of that to pay for an independent review of the Apex application. The remaining $45,000 was used to pay for an outside attorney, Douglas Hanna, to sit in on all eight of the quasi-judicial hearings the county held on the application between August and October.
Perquimans officials have grappled with the controversy over the Timbermill project since the project was first proposed in the summer of 2015. Starting that August, Perquimans residents started packing county commissioner meetings to express their opposition to the project.
That opposition prompted commissioners to impose a 45-day moratorium on consideration of any new wind projects. After the moratorium ended in early 2016, commissioners approved several tweaks to the county’s existing ordinance on wind projects.