EDENTON — A Chowan County couple opposed to Apex Clean Energy’s proposed Timbermill wind turbine project in the county have filed a petition in Superior Court asking that the firm’s conditional use permit for the project be revoked.
Patrick Flynn of Paradise Road filed the appeal on behalf of himself and his wife, Belinda Flynn. The Flynns own and live on property next to a tract that is part of the proposed Timbermill project.
The Chowan County Board of Commissioners last month approved a conditional use permit for the Chowan portion of the Timbermill Wind Project, a 300-megawatt wind energy generation facility originally proposed for the Center Hill and Bear Swamp areas of Chowan and Perquimans counties.
Perquimans officials, however, denied Apex’s permit request for the Perquimans portion of the project. Earlier this week, Apex, of Charlottesville, Va, announced it is appealing the Perquimans decision.
The Flynns' appeal alleges that the wind project will harm the value of their property — reducing the value by as much as 22 percent.
“Timbermill's own evidence shows conclusively that the project will damage the value of adjoining and abutting property,” the appeal states.
The Flynns also cite a likelihood of harm to their personal health, especially for Belinda Flynn, who, the appeal states, suffers from vertigo.
Much of the appeal focuses on environmental studies that Apex performed in preparation for the Timbermill project but did not submit to county officials as part of the application for the conditional use permit. The appeal cites reports that were presented to officials with the N.C. Division of Coastal Management but not provided to county officials. Those reports included a bird and bat study and other studies related to wildlife and human health.
“The type of damage this project is going to have on the citizen health and safety and Chowan wildlife is unknown; but Apex submitted that information to CAMA officials,” the appeal states.
John Morrison, an attorney with the Twiford Law Firm who provides legal counsel to Chowan County, in a letter to county officials indicated that in addition to the county permitting process “there are multiple layers of protection from multiple agencies.”
Morrison's description of that protection includes a reference to the review by the state's Department of Environment and Natural Resources, a review he characterizes as beyond the county's resources and expertise.
“Before any proposed wind energy project gets to you, it must have approval from DENR,” Morrison said in the April 6, 2015, letter to county officials.
The Flynns' petition cites Morrison's letter in support of their contention that state permits should have been obtained before the county permit application was heard by county commissioners.
Morrison said Thursday his April 2015 letter was his opinion as the county’s legal counsel and does not have the force of law. He also said he indicated in the letter that he was acting at the time in the absence of a county planner, and that once a planner was hired, that official would guide the commissioners through the application process.
Morrison said he doesn't remember exactly what he intended in his statement about the DENR review. But to the extent that the statement is understood to mean that DENR would review the project before it could be constructed – which he said was likely what he had intended the statement to mean – that would be correct, Morrison said.
Morrison also explained that the Superior Court will not retry the merits of Apex’s permit request. Instead, it will only review the hearing the county held on the request to determine whether county commissioners erred in the way it was conducted.
Apex spokesman Kevin Chandler said Wednesday he was aware of the Flynns' petition but had not yet had an opportunity to review it.
Also, a spokesman for Apex said the company hopes Perquimans’ decision will be overturned but plans in the meantime to pursue the project In Chowan.
“We remain hopeful that the Superior Court will reverse the Perquimans County denial of Timbermill’s permit,” said Don Giecek, Apex's senior manager of project development. “This 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.”