Library filed under Zoning/Planning from Virginia
Since announcing plans for the wind farm in 2015, Apex Clean Energy has seen a number of setbacks. The most recent came last month, when county zoning administrator Drew Pearson determined that Apex had missed a May 26 deadline for county approval of a site plan. The Charlottesville company did not qualify for an exemption passed by the General Assembly for some projects that were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Pearson ruled.
Opponents have said the giant turbines would be an eyesore, make too much noise, generate shadow flicker and pose a threat to a scenic, mountainous area and its wildlife. A lawsuit filed last year seeks to stop the project by challenging a permit issued by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. The state has asked that the case be dismissed; an Aug. 20 hearing is scheduled in Botetourt County Circuit Court.
Apex Clean Energy Inc. continues working toward a day when wind turbines standing atop Botetourt County’s North Mountain might generate enough energy to power up to 21,000 homes each year.
The Culpeper County Planning Commission recently reached a unanimous consensus that a new zoning district should not be created for solar utility projects. Moving forward, the commission will continue discussing a solar utility ordinance.
The most vocal critic of Rocky Forge, however, proved to be Amsterdam District Supervisor Steve Clinton, who described the proposed wind farm as having “overstated benefits and understated costs,” and suggested, “maybe this isn’t worth it.” Martin, who represents the Blue Ridge District, stated that he supported wind energy but opposed the height increase. He also expressed exasperation that Apex still hasn’t secured passage to transport the massive turbine parts up the mountain, telling company representatives, “You’ve had four and a half years to get a right of way.”
If wind turbines are allowed to tower up to 680 feet into the sky from a Botetourt County mountaintop, they would be higher than the tallest ones currently in the United States. But should the county’s board of supervisors approve a request from Apex Clean Energy to build up to 22 modern windmills as tall as a 50-story building, it wouldn’t necessarily set a new record.
The commissioners are set to consider an ordinance and permit amendment that would allow Charlottesville-based Apex Clean Energy to move ahead with a wind farm powered by turbines of up to 680 feet tall.
The solar project in rural western Spotsylvania County is underway, and some neighbors are finding problems with how construction is being handled.
Currituck County officials have imposed a two-month moratorium on building solar farms over concerns raised about the largest array in the eastern United States already underway here. Residents have complained to county commissioners about a 2,000-acre site under construction in Moyock that will be filled with the mirrored-glass panels.
Opponents have said the spinning blades of the giant windmills will kill birds and bats, and that placing the 550-foot-tall turbines on a pristine ridgeline will cause erosion and stream water contamination. ...The DEQ application process is permit-by-rule, meaning that the wind farm would be approved administratively if it meets 14 standard requirements.
On Jan. 26, Botetourt County’s Board of Supervisors gave its unanimous blessing to the construction of 25 550- foot tall wind turbines on North Mountain.
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.
“My position remains that 85, if not 95 percent of those folks in the Eastern District, do not want to see that commercial wind turbine project go forward on East River Mountain,” Stacy said. “I’ve invited them twice to look at other sites, including one of the old abandoned strip mines that has a lot of infrastructure on it.” Ryan Frazier, a spokesman for Dominion, said the company evaluated several different ridgetops early into the process.
As currently proposed, the wind farm would consist of up to 25 turbines, each one as tall as 550 feet, that would be arranged in a Y-shaped formation traversing two ridgelines.
After months of preliminary planning and discussions, Apex Clean Energy on Friday afternoon filed an application for a special exception permit, which it must obtain from the county board of supervisors before starting construction.
What Botetourt County is preaching as responsible, some residents like Van Velzer are saying is bad for the county. "This is not a restrictive ordinance, this is an accommodating ordinance," he said.
Since learning in February of a Charlottesville wind energy company’s interest in building as many as 25 turbines on North Mountain, about five miles northeast of Eagle Rock, Botetourt officials have been working on the new chapter to the county’s zoning requirements.
[Charles Stacy, the Eastern District Board of Supervisors member] said the majority of those citizens living in the Eastern District today appear to remain largely opposed to the idea of a large-scale wind turbine farm on scenic East River Mountain. But based upon feedback received during the first public comment period of the proposed draft ordinance, Stacy said the board is going back and revising the proposal to reflect comments received from citizens.
Charles Stacy, eastern district representative on the board of supervisors said that the Virginia Association of Counties has expressed concerns about SB 1341, the renewable energy facilities; exemption from land use regulations," bill that was introduced in the General Assembly by State Senator Richard L. Saslaw, D-Springfield. "VACo is adamantly opposed to this bill for reasons other than windmills."
The Floyd County draft ordinance prohibits the construction, repair or improvement of structures more than 40 feet high on any ridge 2,000 feet or more above sea level and 500 feet or more above an adjacent valley floor, a geographical catchment area that covers much of Floyd County. The ordinance makes an exception for water, radio, telecommunications and television towers.