Wind energy law in Chowan County attempts to dodge turbulence
CHOWAN COUNTY — The Planning Commission held a workshop meeting Tuesday night, March 31, to review and discuss the proposed Wind Ordinance that they expect to submit to the County Commissioners next week.
Elected officials have given the Planning Commission 30 days — until March 31 — to come up with a suggested ordinance. The planning commission appointed a subcommittee of its members to review the various topics and submit recommendations. The subcommittee members appointed by Chairman Lou Sarratt are Patti Kersey, Jim Leggett, and Jim Robison.
In the form of a PowerPoint presentation, Robison outlined the various issues — protection of property value, adequate setbacks as related to the maximum height and ‘flicker’ of wind turbines, proper acoustical limits, decommissioning rules, and sufficient escrows provided by the developer.
As Robison began the presentation, commission member Marvin Hare began asking clarifying questions, intended at least in part to disrupt Robison’s presentation. Further, all the questioning came from Hare and hardly any other commission members spoke at all.
Hare questioned every conclusion, on every subject.
Robison offered his opinion that the subcommittee had been given insufficient time to adequately address the issues of health, safety, and welfare of Chowan County citizens.
He said the subcommittee had quickly reviewed the wind ordinances of Carteret County and the town of Newport in North Carolina. In addition they reviewed Madison, Ohio; Montville, Maine; Bethany, New York; Trempealeau County, Wisconsin; Eddington, Maine; Sumner, Maine; and, Jackson, Maine.
Robison suggested these towns were selected because they are similar in size and composition to Chowan County. Again, Hare disputed the basis of the selections of these areas. At one point in the presentation, Commissioner Leggett made a critical remark about the subcommittee having consulted with noted wind energy critic, John Droz, of Morehead City.
This meeting was open to the public, but the only members of the public who attended, were Richard Bunch and his colleague who are proponents of wind energy, and of course, this reporter. Bunch has more than a passing interest in wind energy, having once served as Marketing Director for the North East Commission before it was disbanded and merged into another organization.
Once Mr. Robison concluded his remarks, comments from the commission members indicated a majority on the advisory board are favorably disposed toward the proposed wind energy projects. They see the issue as one of economic development, which will benefit the county because of the ongoing property taxes that the developer will pay.
Unless the Board of County Commissioners sees a significant turnout of wind energy opponents at the its Monday, April 6 meeting, look for a developer-friendly ordinance to take a giant leap forward.
Chairman Sarratt announced his resignation from the Planning Board once he submits the board’s recommended ordinance to the Commissioners. By all accounts, he has attempted to conduct these hearings in a manner that was fair to both sides, regardless of his personal preferences.
Insiders hint Sarratt is leaving his post, having tired of the controversy associated with the preparation of a proposed wind energy ordinance.