back to top

Turbine Hearing Figures to Be Lively

by Gene Marrano

The “battle lines” have been drawn: local environmentalists and others looking for Roanoke County to make a statement about supporting alternative energy sources, versus homeowners in Bent Mountain worried about aesthetics, property values and any harmful health effects associated with wind turbines that generate electricity.

The next potential “battlefield skirmish,” as it is may be, will take place at Tuesday’s public hearing during the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors meeting (Aug. 23, 7 p.m.) at the county administration building off Electric Rd./Rt. 419. The hearing is for a proposed countywide ordinance that would set guidelines for all wind turbine projects; Board-approved special use permits would still be needed for each particular application.

“Enter another player,” said Diana Christopulos, executive director of the Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition, which conditionally supports a proposed wind turbine project on Poor Mountain, on leased land near the current location of radio/TV towers and AEP transmission lines: the Tea Party, which has opposed wind turbine projects across the country, according to Christopulos, as a government infringement on the rights of adjacent property owners that don’t want them in their backyard.

“There’s still a lot of hurdles they have to meet,” cautions Christopulos about the proposed wind turbine farm. “No formal application from Chicago-based Invenergy is on the table yet,” she adds. Christopulos expects a number of local Tea Party supporters to speak on Tuesday as well. The local Sierra Club chapter also supports the wind turbine ordinance and the Poor Mountain project.

The Board of Supervisors could vote on the ordinance after the public hearing or could delay a vote until another meeting after digesting all of the comments received. The Roanoke County Planning Commission put off a vote several times after hearing detractors talk about reduced property values, diminished natural viewsheds and the harmful effects of whirring turbine blades before voting 3-2 to recommend passage of the ordinance by the Board of Supervisors.

Several months ago the BOS did enact an ordinance covering smaller wind turbine projects;  however they are nothing like the 443’ towers, 18 in all, proposed by Invenergy for Poor Mountain.

Christopulos is perplexed by one recommendation made by the Planning Commission, which called for a half mile setback from a wind turbine tower to an adjacent residence, saying national standards for health and safety are more like 110% of the height of the tower; she’s hopeful supervisors will change any ordinance to something along those lines. She claims that concerns about health hazards is based on outdated information and old technology.

A Federal Aviation Administration study signed off on the location of all but three towers, saying they would not be an impediment to flights in and out of Roanoke Regional Airport. The agency did say three turbine towers might have to be moved, shortened or taken out of Invenergy’s plans.

Christopulos also believes a wind farm, which would feed electricity created into the AEP grid, could send a message about the Roanoke Valley, helping to land high-tech companies with a similar green attitude. It could also be an educational tool and a tourist attraction, with a proposed community center at the former Bent Mountain Elementary School serving as the information center.

Speaking of “green,” with a property tax rate tied to the amount invested, and Invenergy proposing to spend a $100 million on Poor Mountain, Roanoke County could see $800,000 in tax revenues in the first year of operation, according to Christopulos, who will likely hear plenty of opposition at next Tuesday’s meeting. “It just depends on how people respond to it. You can’t really tell until we’re there [at the hearing].”

Latest Articles

- Advertisement -Fox Radio CBS Sports Radio Advertisement

Latest Articles

- Advertisement -Fox Radio CBS Sports Radio Advertisement

Related Articles