Planning Commission Wind Turbines Work Session


In summary, the Planning Commission held a work session on ZTA-2009-00001 Wind Turbines.  Jeremy Hayes, President of Skyline Turbine, presented a brief PowerPoint presentation to help the Commission understand what sort of turbines might be available in Albemarle. Mark Graham presented a PowerPoint presentation and explained the proposed ordinance amendment and responded to the questions raised by the Commission. The Commission took public comment, asked questions and provided comments and suggestions. The Planning Commission asked staff to consider their suggestions and to pass their comments on to the Board of Supervisors before the joint May 6 work session, as follows:

·         Mr. Franco felt to answer the concerns he was hearing from Mr. Loach and Ms. Porterfield that as was said this was part of a process and he would hope that public input and concerns would come out during this process so that they could include the by-right components.  He asked that they keep that in mind.  On page 2 of the attachment under the definitions under Tier 1 he was not sure if it was a definition or a commentary that is in italics where it says these facilities are anticipated to result in very little or not impact to the community.  He might change that to say “negative impact” because one of the reasons they are exploring this is because of the potential positive impacts that this brings.  He felt that they need to stress that as part of the reason why they are pursuing this. 

·         Mr. Haynes should be invited to the joint Board meeting.

·         Ms. Porterfield pointed out on based on what she had been saying, which Mr. Loach supported, she would like to see if he had a different way of going at Tier 1.   If it is not going to come in as a special use permit then is there a different way of going at it.  Does there have to be a minimum acreage before one can have this?  Do these have to be kept X number of feet from any property line?  There are some things if they want to go with the less for the applicant to do she felt that they need to solve a few of the problems going in, which are number one the visual part of it and the noise.  They know from the past that noise is going to be an issue on this.  If they come up with saying that Tier 1 is not going to be a special use permit then they are going to allow it by-right, but by-right for which properties.  Do they have to have a minimum of 5 or 10 acres?  Do they have to keep the apparatus at least 1500’ from any property line?  There are some things that they could probably do to make sure that whatever comes in is going to work.  The one thing that has come up in this discussion is how to handle Tier 1.  Are there any other ideas that could be ready in two weeks if the Board wants to hear any other ideas that come from some of the things that they have talked about?  She questioned whether staff could come back with something.

·         Mr. Loach understood what Ms. Porterfield was saying was that she wanted a process that was easy, but also accessible.  She did not want to make it to be an onerous cost so the public can get in to make their opinion.  The comparison of the turbine and balloon test comes with the upper tiers with the 30’ above the tree line. At that tier it is distinct.  He asked how do they say to a company that you spend X number of tens of thousands of dollars to go 3’ to 7’, but that an individual what do we hold them to go 30’ above the tree line. His question was what would be the criteria for that.

·         There are different gradations here.  A Tier 1 is by right.  A Tier 2 requires a waiver. A Tier 3 requires a special use permit.  So could a Tier 1 require less of a waiver; a Tier 2 a waiver and a Tier 3 a special use permit.  That was Ms. Porterfield’s point.  The lesser waiver might not be so cost onerous because one would not have to hire a $12,000 attorney to take them through the special use permit process.  But they could meet some more basic standards that are not as onerous or costly to get the Tier 1 instead of going directly by right.  It should be something that the Board of Supervisors should hear as part of the discussion there. 

·         The Commission wrestled with this particular issue and there are merits on both sides.  By right makes it very simple and it achieves some of the public good.  That deals with a lot of the environmental concerns and issues.  But, going through a public process does protect some of the neighbors from something that is quite new.  They could debate that on both sides.  Certainly the Supervisors should hear if they have not considered that already that these are issues that are worthy of debating or discussion. 

·         The Planning Commission plans to participate with the Board of Supervisors in the wind turbine work session on May 6.  Several Commissioners asked for the following changes to the staff report:

o        An addendum could be added to the staff report to clarify what was being suggested for the by right in that it be limited to whatever the current zoning regulations are in height.  This does not deal with the sound.  But it should be limited in height to what accessory structures are limited to.  That does not really jump out in the staff report.  That is a very important consideration. 

o        There should be a reminder to everybody that they do have a noise ordinance.  Staff should remind the Board what the Noise Ordinance states and what the acceptable decibel levels are.  There are a lot of things already on the books that can be used for this.


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