Apex Clean Energy Inc. and opponents of Apex's proposed Timbermill Wind Project completed their presentation of evidence last week in hearings on the conditional use permit application for the project.
During four days of hearings before the Chowan County Board of Commissioners, Apex presented testimony on topics such as health, sound and property values. The opposition offered testimony from its own witnesses, including two who spoke about the project's potential impact on soil and water resources.
The county commisisoners held hearings Monday and Tuesday evenings, all day Wednesday into Wednesday evening, and Thursday evening.
Apex also had presented evidence at a hearing in August.
The Perquimans County Commission is scheduled to resume hearings on the Apex project on Oct.17-18.
Apex, a company based in Charlottesville, Va., has applied for a conditional use permit to build a 300-megawatt wind energy generation facility in the Bear Swamp and Center Hill areas of Chowan and Perquimans counties. The project requires a CUP in each county.
The proposed project includes 105 wind turbines projected to be nearly 600 feet high at maximum tip height.
The plan calls for 48 of the turbines to be located in Chowan County.
At the beginning of the session Thursday evening, Patrick Flynn, a property owner participating in the case against the proposed wind energy generation facility, announced that the opposition, which had been represented by attorney Bill Bryan, had decided to conserve its assets by dispensing with counsel.
Flynn represented himself in the hearing Thursday evening. He said would like to reserve his closing statement until just before the commissioners begin their deliberations.
Attorneys for Apex also plan to present closing arguments at that time.
The commissioners will meet at 5 p.m. on Oct. 17 to set a time for the deliberations on the CUP application. Before deliberations begin copies of the transcript of the hearings will be provided to Commissioner Emmett Winborne, who was absent last week, and to Commissioner Ellis Lawrence, who was absent Thursday.
Apex presented testimony that more than 70 peer-reviewed studies on the health effects of wind energy generation facilities had found no substantial evidence of harm to human health at the setback distances that are included in the county ordinance.
The opposition sought to introduce testimony by longtime practitioner of internal medicine, Dr. Wayne C. Stegall, but the board did not accept Stegall as an expert witness.
Stegall said he had interviewed more than 20 people in three states about the effects large-scale wind turbines had on their health. He said he is still in the process of conducting such interviews.
“I intend to continue this kind of study in collaboration with my colleagues as the months go by,” Stegall said.
Henry Campen, an attorney representing Apex, asked Stegall whether he had any specialized training in psychiatry or psychology. Stegall said he was not a specialist in psychiatry but he added that most mental health treatment in the country is provided by primary care physicians rather than by psychiatrists.
John Morrison, an attorney advising the county commissioners in the CUP hearing process, advised the commissioners not to accept Stegall as an expert witness since his study had not been completed.
The board members present at the hearing voted unanimously not to accept Stegall as an expert witness. Winborne was excused from the session for medical reasons and Chairman Jeff Smith has been recused from the CUP hearings because his family farm is included in the proposed project area for the Timbermill project.
In addition to expert testimony presented by the parties, the hearings last week also included brief testimony by some citizens who live near the project.
Kim White said she was concerned about how close the windmills will be to her home and property. She said she is concerned about the effect the wind turbines could have 0n drainage.
“Don't put them so close,” White said.
She said she was concerned because she doesn't know how the wind turbines will affect the ecosystem.
Liz Alons said the closest of the wind turbines would be just a little over half a mile from her home. There will be 27 turbines within two miles of her home, she said.
Alons said she has lived on Paradise Road for 30 years. After the wind project is built the sky will be lit up with red lights at night, she said.
Because of the negative effects from having 27 wind turbines near her home she won't be able to sell her home, she said.
The wind turbines will harm property values, Alons said.
Farmers have been blinded by the money they think they will be receiving, she said.
Alons said the wind turbines will make flooding worse, kills bats and birds, and cause families living nearby to become sick.
“We do not want our home to be surrounded by these industrial structures,” Alons said.
Another resident of the county, Bob Kirby, said he was concerned about the dangersposed by accumulation of ice on the turbine blades.
Kirby said the county ordinance states that a conditional use permit is valid for one year after it is issued. He told the county commissioners that they need to hold Apex to that requirement.
“Once you vote the clock starts,” Kirby said.
Kirby said he has a lot invested in his property and he is concerned about the effect the turbines will have on plants at his home. By killing bats, the turbines will increase the threat posed by insects to the plants his wife cultivates at their home, he said.