Between Chowan & Pasquotank, Perquimans County flexes political muscle
CHOWAN COUNTY — At the recent County Commission meeting, various citizens addressed the board during the public hearing portion of the agenda. They spoke about their views of the Wind Energy plan that has been hotly debated by supporters on both sides of the issue.
Speaking against the project was George Grother and Rick Hardy. Both of these men had interesting and practical experience in the energy related matters. Both men agreed that alternative energy research is a valuable tool to be considered but argued that it is not good for our area.
Other speakers were Lucille Pescevich, Lin Bond, Amelia Bond and Bob Kirby who read an article that had been published in this paper, regarding a public hearing in adjacent Perquimans County. That report suggested citizen concerns about wind energy might result in citizen discontent with the actions of their Commissioners, expressing itself at the ballot box in upcoming elections.
Kirby (one of the speakers) wanted his Commissioners to hear the same point of view.
In the “Timely Matters” portion of the agenda, Commissioner Winborne asked the county attorney about whether they could attend the upcoming movie ‘Windfall’ in Perquimans County, during which John Droz, a noted physicist and critic of wind energy, would respond to questions.
The county attorney was asked about whether the commissioners would have to go into ‘quasi judicial mode’ if they viewed the video. The attorney advised that they must be impartial but that commissioners could do their own research but that they had to disclose that fact they had seen the movie, if they went into a public hearing on the issue.
Commissioner Michner asked about the ruling and questioned how this statement related to commissioners actions if they saw something that might be determined prejudicial. The attorney answered that if challenged under these circumstances, a commissioner could be voted to have made up his mind and omitted from voting.
County Manager Kevin Howard stated that to attend this video might give rise to claims that the commissioner was not impartial because it could be alleged that he had made up his mind.
The result of this discussion was to muddy the waters enough that commissioners would have sufficient political coverage to avoid the citizen suggestion that they should attend the educational video.
The citizens had long complained that commissioners were voting on matters that they knew nothing about and that their only knowledge had been obtained from the wind developer, Apex Clean Energy.
When the controversial film was later screened at Bethel Baptist Church, approximately 50 people from Perquimans and Chowan Counties attended. No commissioners from either county attended.
On the night of the video in Bethel, an attorney from West Virginia attended. This individual has had a variety of experiences fighting wind energy companies and projects. In discussing this local project with him, he commented upon various third party damage matters, among others, that might be valuable to the local property owners.
This reporter hopes to interview this expert, with a news report to follow in this newspaper.
Clearly, the county commissioners in Chowan County have been trying to outmaneuver the citizens, appointing representatives to the county’s Planning Board who will vote favorably to the interests of Apex.
Perquimans County, however, has become very involved in the ‘anti-wind movement.’
Since Perquimans shares the Desert Wind project with Pasquotank County, and the Timbermill Project with Chowan County, this makes the fate of both projects rest heavily upon elected officials in Perquimans County, where the citizens are the most engaged and where the suggested threat to commissioner reelection prospects is the greatest.