Albemarle County Planning Commission

April 21, 2009

 

The Albemarle County Planning Commission held a public hearing, work session and meeting on Tuesday, April 21, 2009, at 6:00 p.m., at the County Office Building, Lane Auditorium, Second Floor, 401 McIntire Road, Charlottesville, Virginia.

 

Members attending were Marcia Joseph, Don Franco, Linda Porterfield, Bill Edgerton, Thomas Loach and Eric Strucko, Chairman.  Cal Morris and Julia Monteith, AICP, non-voting representative for the University of Virginia, were absent. 

 

Other officials present were Steward Wright, Permit Planner; Sherri Proctor, Permit Planner; Ron Higgins, Chief of Zoning; Wayne Cilimberg, Director of Planning; Bill Fritz, Chief of Current Development; Scott Clark, Senior Planner; John Shepherd, Manager of Zoning Administration;  Mark Graham, Director of Community Development and Greg Kamptner, Deputy County Attorney. 

 

Call to Order and Establish Quorum:

 

Mr. Strucko called the regular meeting to order at 6:00 p.m. and established a quorum.

 

            Work Session:

 

ZTA-2009-00001 Wind Turbines

Consider possible Zoning Ordinance Amendment to allow wind turbines. (Mark Graham) 

 

Mr. Strucko noted that prior to receiving the staff report that Jeremy Hayes, of Skyline Turbine, would provide some background information. He invited Mr. Hayes to come forward and address the Commission.

 

Jeremy Hayes, President of Skyline Turbine, presented a PowerPoint presentation entitled “The Future Is Wind Power”. (Attachment: PowerPoint Presentation and Related Information) The presentation outline included their mission statement and the motivation for small wind power in Albemarle County specifically.  He worked the outline towards what he heard in previous work sessions about the three tiered system that the Commission has been working towards.  The photos, in his opinion, show how turbines or more appropriately the installations themselves fit inside those tiers as he understands them.   At the end of the presentation he would open the floor for questions from the Commissioners.

 

Mission Statement: Skyline Turbine is a renewable energy supplier for residential and small business customers.  Skyline Turbine’s mission is to research, implement, and install wind power appliances to meet the specific requirements of each customer.  We envision a day when all aspects of wind, solar, and energy efficiencies will be brought together to make our structures self-supporting and contributing to the community.  Skyline Turbine is committed to supporting local governments and its citizens by fostering open communication and utilizing all available means to successfully accomplish each installation.

 

Motivation: Dispelling the Image of Wind Power

Large wind farms define the common thought of wind power

 

Most people envision:

wLarge loud objects

wThreat to wildlife

 

Detachment from the natural environment and daily life

Obstruction of view

 

Motivation: Small Wind Power

Schmidte Installation

 

wSeveral of advantages include:

§Generation of power at the homestead

§Revenue incentives to sell back to the grid

§Affordability

§Energy cost reduction

 

Blends into environment:

§Blades closer together

§Can be seen by wildlife and acts as deterrent

§Reduced decibel levels

 

Most commonly what people are familiar with when thinking of wind power is large looming objects 300’ in height that are commonly a threat to wildlife with migratory birds primarily.  A large portion of things that may be against wind turbines in this area would be something to do with view sheds.   The reason to use small wind power is that they are much smaller apparatuses.  The diameter of the spinning blades themselves is a very small blade disc about 12’ in diameter.  In the Skystream 3.7 model the 12’ blade diameter is very easy for wildlife and birds to see.  Typically a large portion of bird death problems happen when migratory birds fly between two of the very large blades that have a long distance apart and are not privy to the blades even coming their way. 

 

There are many reasons to look at small wind power for residences and small businesses.  One reason would be to have each individual have the opportunity to generate some portion or even all of their own power by using a wind power device and/or coupling it with a solar device to reduce or entirely eliminate energy consumption by an individual.  Typically these can be done through installing a very small appliance.  In the photograph the turbine shown in front of the White House is one of the largest that is used for residences.  Those turbines are put in place in front of people’s homes to reduce the overall cost and in some cases contribute their power back to the grid for people in their community. 

 

 

Ms. Joseph asked if the turbine was actually installed in front of the White House.

 

Mr. Hayes replied that the turbine was installed only for a short time for demonstration purposes.  Other motivations to use wind power include:

 

Motivation: Tax Incentives and Energy Independence

30 % Federal Tax Rebate.

Grid Inter-Connection Possible In Virginia.

Visualize Free Electricity.

 

 

Ms. Joseph asked if the 30 percent federal tax rebate was for the total cost.

 

Mr. Hayes replied that for the equipment and installation currently the federal government will rebate on your taxes 30 percent of that installation at the end of the year. 

 

Ms. Joseph asked if there was any state tax rebate.

 

Mr. Hayes replied that currently in the state of Virginia there is none.  There are incentives in a tax rebate fashion very much like the federal government in both Maryland and North Carolina.  In Virginia they have the federal rebate to count on and the interconnection agreement.  The interconnection agreement is a big portion of it because it does allow people to get credit back for power that they put on the grid.  That is a very efficient way to afford one of these appliances. 

 

Tier I: Turbines by Right

 

In side of what the Commissioners have spoken previously in the tiered system for an ordinance for Albemarle County it is his understanding that Tier 1 Turbines would be by right, which would mean that someone would apply for a building permit prior to installation.  These turbines would in most cases solve all of the common issues that pop up around turbines.  Fall zones for the actual towers for turbines are commonly an issue. 

 

For some of the newer types of turbines, such as the Helix which is a vertical access turbine, they have very short towers and the fall distances are negligible and in some cases not worth mentioning.  The Helix turbine operation is very quiet in the 5db decibel range.  They generally don’t require much of a footprint to install at all.  Generally it takes about a 10’ diameter circle.  They can provide power for a home in the nature of 2.5kw to 5kw of power given that they have the wind resource.  In Albemarle County he would estimate that 60 percent of the people have some resource or some percentage of their power they could provide with wind power.  Another product that is a very small turbine, an Air Breeze, has a 2’ blade diameter and creates very much a smaller amount of power.  There is a similar type of turbine on Rio Road currently.  These are two turbines that could be examples of a Tier 1 installation   

 

Tier II: Dinardo Installation

 

In a Tier II installation would be turbines that have some sort of a tower and need to be looked at overall for view shed or other concerns.  The primary concerns would be noise and view shed concerns.  The footer and foundation for this particular piece of equipment is rather small.  It is a 6’ X 6’ X 3’ deep cube.  The photos show the apparatus in the center, which is the bolt diagram for the tower itself, and the pole installation itself for scale.   That installation was done about a month again in Rockbridge County.  Most of the 60’ monopole is above the trees.   They had to get a special use permit in order to put the monopole in, which included review by the Planning Commission, Board of Supervisors and State Park Service.  The State Park Service cleared this turbine for view shed reasons.

 

Tier III: Large Residential and Small Business

 

The Tier III would be anything that qualified for residential or small business use.  But typically these are appliances that are quite a bit louder and generate quite a bit more electricity in the nature of 10kw.  These particular turbines do have applications in Albemarle County and are generally looked at as large residential or small commercial business use.  He would suggest that this type of application be looked at through a full special use permit application.  As he previously said there could be applications where people have properties larger than 2 acres and are far enough from other homes and view sheds where they could be employed and really not be noticed by most people and be very effective for their owners.  This could be an example of a Tier III.    He offered to answer any questions.

 

Mr. Strucko invited questions from the Commissioners.

 

Ms. Joseph asked when he went before the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors in Rockbridge was there public input and if so what kind of concerns were expressed by the Planning Commission, the Board and the public.

 

Mr. Hayes replied yes there was public comment.  The comments were really exactly about the same concerns, which would have to do either with the safety measures of the fall zones of the tower, which is typically the height of the tower or a diameter or circle around it, and the noise levels of the particular equipment.  The noise levels of everything that he had showed the Commission today had a maximum level of 110 decibels judged at a distance of 500.  That is for the noisiest of the equipment.  Many of the other models, such as the Helix, are a 5 decibel rating and it really makes about as much noise as a laptop.  The Skystream 3.7 has a 45 to 50 decibel level rating and from 150’ away someone can have a conversation with somebody and overcome the noise of the turbine and a 12 mile an hour wind.

 

Ms. Joseph asked if the turbine that went up in Rockbridge had a 110 decibel level.

 

Mr. Hayes replied that the turbine in Rockbridge has a 45 decibel rating, which was the Skystream 3.7.  It is mounted in the front parking lot.  With a 12 to 15 mile wind inside the home one cannot hear it.  The decibel level of 45 decibels is monitored at 150’.

 

Ms. Porterfield asked what would be the distance for the ice throws for the turbines he was showing that might fit in the Tier I.

 

Mr. Hayes replied that on that particular model there are no ice throws.  Ice throws are typically ice that is gathered on blades and then thrown from it when they spin. There are things that are done to prevent that.  For a vertical access turbine, as the one shown in the photo, they actually prevent ice from forming on them because the whole mechanism is spinning vertically.  There are no ice throws on that model.

 

Ms. Porterfield asked if there is any amount of setback from other buildings or other things like that for this type.

 

Mr. Hayes replied that it was not brought up in any of the other conversations.  He was not privy to information that could tell them that.

 

Ms. Porterfield noted that he did not know if it does need a setback or not.

 

Mr. Hayes replied that he did not know, but would be more than happy to find that out and provide that information.

 

Mr. Loach noted on the Helix power output it is 2.5kw or 5kw.  He asked what that means for an average family use.

 

Mr. Hayes relied that an average family of 4 in the United States consumes 2,600 watts per month or 2.6 kilowatts.  They will find a very wide range on both sides of what people actually use.

 

Mr. Loach asked if in using it are there peaks and valleys depending on the wind.  He asked if there is any way to store the power.

 

Mr. Hayes replied that there is no way to store the power effectively beyond battery use.  At this time, in his opinion, battery use can be hazardous for the average person to hold in their household.  That is why he strongly advocates when power is generated in excess of the use by the residential owner that it flows freely back onto the grid to be used by others when it is connected with the grid.  That person receives a monetary credit.  He refers to that as a “monetary battery”. 

 

Mr. Loach asked on the accepted 60’ tower besides the safety concerns and the noise was there much concern about the visual impact of the tower itself.

 

Mr. Hayes replied that the visual impact was studied by the State Park Service from a distance of a quarter mile away and they determined that at no point on the Skyline Drive could they see that appliance and have it affect them.  They actually rented a lift, went out to the site and elevated it to a height of 60’ and used a 4’ X 4’ target card painted bright pink for them to photograph. 

 

Ms. Porterfield asked what kind of equipment is needed to send power back to the grid.

 

Mr. Hayes replied that a disconnect is needed at the meter. It freely flows into a 20 amp breaker in the panel box.  There is a physical disconnect at the meter that is required for UL listings nationwide because they are capable of producing enough power to hurt a lineman.  That is there so that the power companies themselves can come shut that appliance off themselves even though there is a double redundant electronic relay on the inside of each one of these units to stop that power from going back onto the grid during times when it is down. 

 

Ms. Porterfield asked if it is traveling through conduit of some type to that box. 

 

Mr. Hayes replied yes.

 

Ms. Porterfield asked if they don’t have any other structures or anything like that if it is just literally going to the breaker box.

 

Mr. Hayes replied that is correct.

 

Mr. Strucko asked in the case of a general power outage during a storm if his turbine is humming away does he have power.

 

Mr. Hayes relied no that he would not.  The UL listing in the United States requires that there are redundant safety switches on inside of these turbines so that if the power grid goes down they also turn themselves off for protection of the linemen themselves for every interconnected turbine.  It is not the case with non-grid connected turbines.

 

Mr. Loach asked what the cost range is.

 

Mr. Hayes replied that the cost range currently is between $12,000 and $25,000 in typical installations, which can be reduced by the 30 percent federal rebate.

 

Ms. Porterfield asked if it is not connected to the gird and Mr. Strucko’s power goes out does he still have power.

 

Mr. Hayes replied yes because he is entirely independent. 

 

Ms. Porterfield asked if there is much upkeep.

 

Mr. Hayes replied that there is very little upkeep except for the waxing of the blades in the first five years.  They have not had anyone take that one on yet.

 

Mr. Strucko thanked Mr. Hayes for taking the time to come and give the presentation. 

 

Mr. Loach asked if in any other areas they have co-located cell towers of any other type.

 

Mr. Hayes replied that there was not anything that he is aware of in the state of Virginia.  But there is precedence for that in many other states.

 

Mr. Strucko noted that he assumed that flush-mounted antenna would have to be used.

 

Mr. Hayes replied that he was not familiar with that whole conversation yet.  He was interested himself in what the vibrations of the turbines will actually do to those antennas.  He wondered if it was even possible to co-locate them.

 

Mr. Graham noted that staff has been working with two Commissioners and would like to extend thanks to Ms. Joseph and Mr. Edgerton for providing the guidance that they need to get something going here.   It is a three-tiered approach as referred to by Mr. Hayes.  He walked through the three tiers in a PowerPoint Presentation.  (Attachment – PowerPoint Presentation)

 

Tier I Wind Turbines –

         Only in Rural Areas zoning district

         Meets building height requirements (35’ Maximum, measured to highest point)

         Supplementary Regulations:

        Not allowed in either Entrance Corridors or within Mountain Contour List (MOD)

        Setback from property lines = height of structure plus 20’  (That is the fall zone staff is looking for to make sure the structure does not go onto an adjacent property.)

        No lighting on structure

        No collocation of personal wireless antenna

 

Tier II Wind Turbines

         Possible waivers or modifications of Supplementary Regulations:

        Locating within Entrance Corridors or within Mountain Contour List (MOD)

        Locating within other zoning districts, with height not to exceed allowed building height

        Reduced setback from property lines

        Lighting on structure 

        Collocation of personal wireless antenna

 

Tier III Wind Turbines

         Special Use Permit

        Allow height to exceed maximum building height in zoning district

 

         Consider Tier II waivers or modifications simultaneously with Special Use Permit.

 

Remaining Issues

         Establish considerations for approving a Tier II or Tier III (e.g. visual impact from entrance corridor)

         Establish application requirements for Tier II and Tier III

         Establish administrative process for processing of applications (e.g. building permits, fees)

 

Mr. Graham pointed out that the Tier II proposal noted by Mr. Hayes in Rockingham County would actually be a Tier III proposal under this proposal. 

 

Mr. Strucko invited public comment.

 

Morgan Butler, speaking on behalf of the Southern Environmental Law Center, asked to make one general point, add one suggestion and then just ask a couple of clarifying questions of staff. 

·        The general point is that they think that the tiered approach is a good idea and commend both staff as well as Ms. Joseph and Mr. Edgerton for their work in coming up with this.  They realize that this is just a basic framework with some specifics yet to be filled in, but support the overall strategy of trying to rank proposals by the potential impacts and then adjusting the level of review accordingly.  They think that the main point here is it needs to make sure that they are not stifling residents from putting a reasonably sized wind turbine on their property, but to also have a system in place to provide some case specific analysis when the potential impacts of a proposed turbine passes a certain threshold.  The general framework set forth in the executive summary seems to do just that. 

·        As a suggestion under the administrative section of the staff report where it talks about Tier II turbines the staff report says, “As part of approving a waiver or modification for a particular turbine application the Planning Commission may establish reasonable conditions to assure the ordinance intent is maintained.  He emphasized “ordinance intent”.  Similarly the Board of Supervisors might establish conditions for a turbine that requires a special use permit and those conditions would also need to have some relation to the intent of the ordinance.  Because conditions need to have some type of nexus to the intent of the ordinance they would urge the Commission to set forth a wide range of intent in the preamble to the section of the supplemental regulations that will address wind turbines.  The intent should probably note that the purpose of the ordinance is to find the right balance between allowing and encouraging renewable energy sources and protecting against the potential visual, noise, environmental, safety and property noise concerns.  By specifically referencing those visual, environmental, safety and property noise concerns it helps them ensure that future site specific conditions that are crafted to protect those concerns are deemed within the authority of the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors.

·        He noted several questions that he would like addressed:

o       He questioned why the by-right aspect of this is focusing just within the rural areas.  It seems that a lot of the impacts they are trying to protect against are now as applicable in the developable areas. 

o       With respect to the Comprehensive Plan’s Mountain Contour list, he noticed those were categorized by different contours.  There is a 700’, 800’ up to 1,200’ contour.  He was curious if the restriction would only apply to the portions of those named mountains that are above that contour line.  It also mentions unnamed mountains and references a concept map to find them.  He questioned how the unnamed mountains would be dealt with.

o       He questioned how the underlying noise restrictions within each zoning category would be dealt with.  He asked if those would also be a by-right consideration.

 

Jeff Werner, representative for Piedmont Environmental Council, noted that they have been working on this for over two years.  He talked with Ms. Joseph sometime last fall and bounced some ideas off of some folks within PEC.  There are a lot of people in the county struggling with wind turbine issues in order to make it happen, which includes the following.

·      There are some aesthetic issues that will create some problems.  There was overall consensus among the folks he talked to that this tier approach is the way to do it.   He had some discussions on how it is different from the cell tower industry versus this private homeowner use, which don’t get into problems with discrepancies with cell towers.

·      He thought that Mr. Butler hit on the good questions that the Planning Commission should bring up in their discussions.  He was surprised with the noise issue that the gentleman brought up from Skyline.  He did not know that turbines got that big and became that loud.  He remembered when the Commission talked about the grinders and the noise issues were a big deal.  He questioned if they need to address that in this regulation.  It would be nice if someone in the growth area could come in with some way to be able to do this.  He asked if there are models out there that might encourage it.

·      The last part that they might have to contemplate on is in regards to the accessory structure issue.  There are a lot of people who have conservation easements in the rural areas who have restrictions on these sorts of structures.  He did not know if there has to be some notice that it might be by-right in the zoning, but it may not be allowed by the provisions of a conservation easement.  It is just something to contemplate on whether that is just in there as a note for staff to make sure they check this to make sure that a landowner does not end up in a dispute that they don’t need to be in.

·      This is a wonderful idea and he was glad staff was bringing it to the floor.  He hoped that they have a positive discussion and they get this proposal approved.

 

 

There being no further public comment, Mr. Strucko closed the public comment to bring the matter back to the Commission for discussion.

 

Mr. Edgerton pointed out that there was one small point that jumped out on the top of page 2 under the definition for the small wind turbines. The definition was fine, but he did not understand why they had to include the last line, “provided the power sold is not in excess of that typically used for the primary use of the property.”  He knows currently that the net metering system in Virginia has a provision in there that protects the utilities from having to pay someone who is producing more energy than they are using.  They very successfully lobbied this through the General Assembly as the way for the net metering system. But he did not know why they needed to get involved in that.  If somebody is producing more electricity than they are using they should not be punished for that.  The General Assembly has already locked that up a little bit.  He was hoping that some day soon they will have a true net metering system where anybody producing electricity through renewable energy will be treated the same way a power producer is in that capacity.  He knew in Colorado that the utility company has to accept the power and credit people at the rates they charge. They have different rates for different times of day and night. That is a true net metering system. There are actually facilities in Colorado that have been there for quite some time been producing more solar energy than they are using at their facilities.  The ultimate dream is that they can get to the point where they can be providing all of the energy they need with renewable energy.  They are a ways away from that.  But he would hate to have that in the ordinance unless there is some overriding legal reason that they have to include it in there.

 

Mr. Graham noted that he could speak to what the idea was in crafting that.  It was that the wind turbines were an accessory use and not a primary use on the property. For example, if someone does not have one turbine on there that is supplying the power for their property but 30 wind turbines along the ridge line on their property for the purpose of selling it is not consistent in what they envision for these small wind turbines.

 

Ms. Joseph noted that when she and Mr. Edgerton worked on the ordinance language one of the things they looked at was the tier process.  If someone was putting in more than one that is when they would go to special use permit.  That is when it became apparent.  What they are hearing from Mr. Hayes also is that these things the way they are designed are going to limit themselves anyways.  Maybe that is something within the language that it could not be anything more than 2.5 kilowatts and if it produces anything more than that then that is when they start getting a little bit questionable.  If that is all a family needs, then why would they need more than that?  Or maybe the ordinance says if there is more than one of these on the property they get a special use permit so that there is a little more regulation.  The way these things are defined and manufactured may actually limit the output of the, but she really did not know the specifics.

 

Mr. Graham said that the reality is that unless they are requiring the property owner to give us their electric bills they are not going to know how much electricity they are generating or how much they are using. 

 

Ms. Joseph noted that she did not want to have to hire another person to have to look at somebody’s electric bill.

 

Mr. Edgerton said that if they are worried about someone trying to do a commercial application he would love to figure out another way to restrict that. 

 

Mr. Graham suggested limiting the number on the property or one per primary use for example.

 

Mr. Edgerton said that he thought that would be preferable.  He was optimistic that with some increased acceptance of the use of renewable energy that in a very short order there will be a more standardized net metering system in this country. It will probably come down on the federal level.  He would hate for our ordinance to be more restrictive than what should actually be happening. But it has not made it in Virginia yet.

 

Mr. Joseph asked to talk to something that Mr. Butler brought up.  When they were talking about the Tier I, Tier II and Tier III it was contemplated in the rural areas because one anticipates the acreage to be greater per parcel and that it would have less of an impact than it might on adjacent neighbors then maybe the Tier II that would be allowed within the development area.  It would be allowed in zoning other than RA so that the adjacent owners would be notified that this was happening and if they did not care then it could go ahead and be approved administratively.  But it was because the lots are smaller.  When talking to other localities somebody brought up the fact that it would be good to allow them in other zoning districts.  Circumstances like a home owners association might have a larger piece of land and might want to put up something to run the pool house or pump.  It was contemplated that in a Tier II or beyond it would be allowed in other zoning districts, but with a little more regulatory action on it.  It would affect neighbors more.  Now that they are hearing the noise aspects it would just make more sense.

 

Mr. Loach agreed that he would like to see the development areas included in this.  He was just thinking back to his neighbor’s first satellite dish, which was 15’ to 20’ across.  The technology has gotten better.  He assumed that this technology is going to continue that way, too.  So he would like to at least have the development areas included in the discussion and get public feedback at a time later.

 

Mr. Edgerton noted that Mr. Graham, Ms. Joseph and he agree that there should be an opportunity for it to be in all zoning districts.  One of the ideas they started with was just treating it as an accessory structure and then allowing the current height restrictions in the different districts to determine how high it could be in different districts.  If they needed to go higher than that then it would have an impact.  If he put up a shed in his back yard he could make it 35’ high as an accessory structure.  The argument was why this couldn’t be treated like an accessory structure.  One of the issues is the sound issue that they have to worry about.  As Mr. Hayes was explaining there are sounds, but they do have a Noise Ordinance in the county. 

 

Mr. Graham noted that the noise level is 60 decibels during the day and 55 decibels at night.

 

Mr. Edgerton pointed out that the noise is measured at the property line.  Therefore, it depends on how far away you are.  The ones that Mr. Hayes was suggesting as possible Tier I units were both less than that and he thought would not be a problem.  As Ms. Joseph pointed out in the rural areas that hopefully the noise would not impact anybody if it was a by-right situation.

 

Mr. Strucko asked if they considered the impact on a conservation easement.

 

Ms. Joseph noted that there are a lot of things that are not allowed in some conservation easements.  They are all different.  Some owners have agreed to not have any kind of a commercial enterprise when receiving conservation easements.  But they can have a winery.  There are other things that are allowed within our ordinance that the covenants or the conservation easements speaks to specifically for that parcel.  She thought what Mr. Werner was asking was as people come in just as general knowledge when staff is talking with them to just say that they better check their conservation easement to see whether they can do this or not.  She questioned whether it was up to the county’s responsibility to determine that.

 

Mr. Edgerton noted that different conservation easements have different standards right now. 

 

Mr. Graham noted that when talking about conservation easements they are still talking about a building permit being required for these.  Over the last few years they have taken the development tracking system in County View and modified it and listed all the properties that have conservation easements.  When somebody applies for a building permit a flag pops up if that property happens to have a conservation easement on it.  If it is one that PFRA takes care of they research the easement agreement.  Otherwise, they notify the easement holder that this building permit has been applied for.

 

Mr. Kamptner noted that there are some existing conservation easements that have expressly authorized wireless facilities. If the county determines under its zoning  regulation that the small wind turbines are accessory to a residential use very likely without amending their conservation easement they may fall within the scope of a permitted use on the property.

 

Ms. Porterfield felt that it was a good idea, but would like to see them go into the process in a gentler way.  She was very concerned about making these by right to start out with since they should wait to should see what happens in terms of the number of applications received in the next two to four years   Glenmore is in the development area but abuts a lot of rural area zoning.   With the 35’ height limitation adding 20’ and being set back 55’ off the lot lines she felt that many people would be affected in Glenmore in the development area.  Even in the rural area mulching proposal there was a lot of concern about the noise.  She asked that they not create problems visually.  If they had that turbine sitting on top of a house at 55’ it would be an eyesore for a lot of people who cherish what things look like around here.  She noted that Mr. Loach’s district also has a lot of land that abuts up against a lot of rural area. This particular ordinance also needs something in it about what happen when a structure becomes derelict so that if the county has to take it down they can send them a bill.  Including the enforcement of some of these things would make it easier to administer.

 

Ms. Joseph suggested that some of the language can be replicated from the cell tower ordinance.   She felt that it should be made easy for people to do since it is an accessory use.  When people live next door to rural areas there are things that happen.  She felt that it should be allowed in other zoning districts since there are other mechanisms to be used.

 

Mr. Porterfield said that with larger parcels there needs to be some wording that the turbine has to be located X # of ft from lot lines.  She felt that they need to know the concerns of that particular application.

 

Mr. Graham asked if she was saying there should be a special use permit required for all cases.

 

Ms. Porterfield replied yes at this time so they can try it to see and then revisit it in a few years after they have some history.

 

Mr. Loach wondered how onerous it would be someone to go through the special use permit process.  He would love to hear feedback from the public on whether it will be visually obtrusive, which he felt was Ms. Porterfield’s point.

 

Mr. Edgerton agreed that some of Ms. Porterfield’s thoughts have merits in that this should be considered carefully.  It is the reality of the expense in the cost of the special use permit that is scary. Just to get the application in would cost. The compromise suggested has been through lots and lots of suggestions and should be considered.  The compromise is that by right would only allow the turbines to be treated as accessory and be limited in height.  There is no 55’ tower in a by right situation the way it was described. It would be limited to 35’ to the top of the blade. If go higher they would have to go through the special use permit process.  That is a way seeing the type of interest to get it achievable in the rural area if people want to do it.

 

Ms. Porterfield questioned that it would double the cost in the process to require a special use permit.

 

Mr. Graham noted that when staff went out to the community they were told that their cost of the special use permit was running $25,000 to $35,000 for cell towers, which includes engineering plans, attorney fees, balloon test, etc. 

 

Ms. Porterfield suggested coming up with a very simple process, but that it be still be a public process with neighbor involvement. She was not saying to have everyone fly a balloon.

 

Mr. Graham emphasized wind energy and explained the cost benefit.   But there is a potential that the applicant will want to go higher to get up above the trees.  There will be lots of situations for measuring visual impact, which is what staff has seen in the process with cell towers.  The higher the height proposed the more material needs to be submitted.

 

Mr. Loach agreed with Ms. Porterfield’s approach to go slow until they get more comfortable.  He did not know what they would do when the height starts to go up.  They have had people complaining about the 7’ to 10’ above the trees for cell towers.

 

Mr. Edgerton supported the proposed compromise for the by right turbines at the 35’ height limitation as suggested.

 

Mr. Cilimberg said that he heard that there might be interest by one commissioner that all of the tiers be special use permit.  That is just one comment for tonight that could be taken forward to the Board of Supervisors. At this point it is just a work session for the Commission’s input to take forward to the Board. 

 

Ms. Joseph asked what the work session would be with the Board.  She asked if staff planned on taking this and amending the documents with Planning Commission diverse comments.  Mr. Graham replied frankly he did not have time for that now because the staff report for the Board was due today.  All he would do is verbally communicate whatever comments the Commission wanted to pass along to the Board.

 

Ms. Joseph asked if they would have the ability to do those themselves.  She suggested instead of trying to unravel or package this that they concentrate on whether there are any questions that could be cleared up before they go to the Board.

 

Mr. Strucko said that he hoped that the public comments that happened tonight and the rest of the comments since this is in the work session category of our agenda that if the timing is such that this is the report that gets submitted to the Board of Supervisors he would think that there would be a supplement that says here is the result of the work session by the Planning Commission on this evening.  He felt that they would want to include some of the comments they heard from Morgan Butler and Jeff Werner as well as some of the Commission’s discussion here.  It sounds like Ms. Porterfield, perhaps with the support of Mr. Loach, that they are supportive of a more go slow approach where this is a new entity in our community and that perhaps every one of these tiers should be under a special use permit.  He was hearing from Ms. Joseph and Mr. Edgerton, which he would add himself to that as well, did not think that there was a real issue with the Tier 1 small wind turbine going by right.  Of course, they have not heard from Mr. Franco at all.

 

Mr. Franco made the following comments. 

·        Mr. Loach referred to the 35’ height and the 4’ to 7’ height above the trees for the cell towers.  This is 35’ above the ground is his understanding and not above the tree line.  So it is a completely different impact.  He wanted to make sure that his understood was correct.  

·        He liked the tier approach and the by-right component of a tiered approach.  He felt that was important in order to move this technology forward. 

·        With respect to the noise component he questioned the following:

o       Is that up wind or down wind the 145’ or that distance?

o       He asked how loud a 12 mile per hour wind is.

 

Jeremy Hayes replied that it was also important to note that was also along with the wind.  If they hear a 45 decibel noise coming from a turbine with a 20 mile per hour wind that is traveling along with it the maximum velocity of the wind and decibel level of the machine.  At that same time there is an incredible amount of other noises caused by the trees themselves, people’s wind chimes, etc.    He has a video of a 12 mile per hour wind and a conversation between two people about 5 feet apart is largely louder than the turbine at 75 feet away. 

 

Mr. Franco felt to answer the concerns he was hearing from Mr. Loach and Ms. Porterfield that as he 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.  The last comment is that 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 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. 

 

Ms. Joseph asked that Mr. Hayes be invited to the joint meeting.

 

Mr. Edgerton noted that he already has been invited.

 

Ms. Porterfield said that if they are not going to give them any information from this meeting she did not see that they have achieved a lot.  She really thinks that they are going to have to pull together something that the Board of Supervisors gets based on the comments that were made here.  She did not say that because she has a negative feeling about one of the items.  She just thinks it makes sense.

 

Mr. Cilimberg agreed noting that at a minimum the Board will get the Commission’s action memo which outlines the points that were made.  If possible they will also have the draft minutes for the Board.  But it is a short turn around.  Therefore, he could not guarantee that.  What he could guarantee is that they would get the action memo that the Commission reviews.  That action memo would include all of the comments noted tonight.

 

Ms. Porterfield asked staff to tell the Commission the date and time of the meeting.  She suggested that in the future that staff allow enough turn around time to get the materials to the Board.

 

Mr. Graham noted that the Board would hear it on May 6, but that the time has not been scheduled yet.  Typically these types of work sessions are held in the late afternoon.  But they have been scheduled in the morning.  It depends on how the schedule is going.  He noted that this is a little bit different for everybody.  Typically if the Board says this is something that they want staff and the Planning Commission to work on they go work on it.  In this case as part of the discussion on the department’s work program they ask just to see what is going on or to check in.  He was not sure what the Board is hoping to accomplish.  He was assuming that what the idea is was to just look at the direction this seems to be going and see if they are comfortable with that direction before they go to the next step of actually drafting an ordinance.

 

Ms. Joseph pointed out that they need to remember that they are still at work session stage.  It is okay because all of this is going to come out at the work session also.  So they are not going to them with anything other than this document and some ideas at this point.  

 

Mr. Graham noted that they don’t even have a resolution of intent to amend an ordinance at this point. 

 

Ms. Joseph said that at that a point she would expect that some parameters would be set.  Then from that point on then they can start.  She asked that this not be rescheduled from May 6 because she really wanted it to go forward. 

 

Mr. Graham said that he was very interested to find out if this is what people are going to be comfortable moving forward with.  In January he was saying that it looked like this was too complicated and was suggesting perhaps that they put it on the shelf.    Ms. Joseph and Mr. Edgerton graciously volunteered to assist staff.  He was at the point that he felt that they need to decide is this something that they can reach an agreement and move forward or not.

 

Ms. Porterfield pointed on based on what she had been saying with Mr. Loach’s support she would like to see if he had a different way of going at Tier One.   If it is not going to come in as a special use permit 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 a past thing that noise is going to be an issue on this.  If they come up with saying that Tier One is not going to be a special use permit then they are going to be 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.

 

Ms. Joseph noted that would be ordinance language and Mr. Graham does not want to do that right now.

 

Mr. Graham noted that he wanted to do what the Planning Commission and Board want to do.

 

Ms. Porterfield pointed out the one thing that has come up in this discussion is how to handle Tier One.  She asked if there are 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. Edgerton asked Mr. Graham if he was going to the seminar on Friday at James Madison University on writing an ordinance.

 

Mr. Graham replied that he was going to try to attend the seminar.

 

Mr. Edgerton noted that he and Ms. Joseph were going to attend the seminar.

 

Ms. Joseph noted that she was not sure.

 

Mr. Edgerton pointed out that there is a seminar that is being put on by James Madison University by the Shenandoah Planning District Commission in Staunton on Friday.  It is an all day event and the whole experience is that they are going to hear how other counties have addressed this and what they have doneThey will come back with a model ordinance which he intends to share with everybody.  He got some literature on it today.  There is an outline of a model ordinance which has a tier system in it that he thinks will give us the benefit of some of the experience that some of these counties have had.  There has been a varying degree of responses from other counties.  The ones that have been the most negative, as Mr. Hayes pointed out, were for these large turbines that have to be on mountain top ridges.  He did not think that was something that any of us would advocate.

 

Ms. Joseph noted that they were not even considering that at this point.  This ordinance does not even contemplate that.  What they were thinking about was all about the personal turbine.  It is not about producing all kinds of energy for New York City.

 

Ms. Porterfield asked to clear up one thing.  What is the cost of a type of turbine that they are talking about?  Is it $12,000 to $25,000?  She needed to understand that because of what Mr. Edgerton said about the cost of making application to the county.  She asked if they are talking about a minimum of $12,000.

 

Mr. Hayes replied that the minimum level to buy one of these turbines with full installation is $12,000 and reduced by the 30 percent tax credit.   

 

Ms. Porterfield asked if it costs that much to apply to the county.

 

Mr. Strucko noted that the expense for going through the special use permit process they are looking at an expense of about $12,000 for the applicant.

 

Mr. Edgerton said that he was worried that the cost would put it out of the market.

 

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. That was his question.

 

Mr. Franco noted that does require per this going through that process. 

 

Mr. Loach noted that was his point in what would be the criteria for that.

 

Mr. Strucko said that there are different gradations here.  A Tier One is by right.  A Tier Two requires a waiver. A Tier Three requires a special use permit.  So could a Tier One require less of a waiver; a Tier Two a waiver and a Tier Three a special use permit?  That is Ms. Porterfield’s point.  The less of a waiver might not be so cost onerous because one would not have to hire a $12,000 attorney to take you through the special use permits process.  But they could meet some more basic standards that are not as onerous or costly to get the Tier One instead of going directly by right.  That is the sentiment.  That is a legitimate point.  It should be something that the Board of Supervisors should hear as part of the discussion there.  But they have spent over an hour discussing this here.  They had a presentation by Mr. Hayes.  It is a little baffling why they would have to have this entire thing all over again in front of the Board of Supervisors.  Perhaps a report could maybe inform that later discussion and may be cut right to some of these issues. He did not know.  He felt that they need to communicate this to the Board that the Commission did wrestle with this particular issue and that there were merits on both sides.  By right makes it very simple and it achieves some of the public good.  That is that 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. 

 

Mr. Cilimberg asked that the Commissioners pay attention to the action memo in the appendix where it will note all of the comments they have heard so that they have all of that right.  If that is all they are able to get to the Board at least that will be a very important piece.  

 

Mr. Strucko said that the Commission would not decide anything here tonight.  Staff just wanted to gauge their reactions and see what they are going to take to the Board.  He felt that they got a pretty rich set of comments.

 

Mr. Edgerton suggested that 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 is in height.  This does not deal with the sound.  But it should be limited in height to what accessory structures are limited to if he understood what they had been talking about.  But that does not really jump out at you in the staff report.  He felt that it was a very important consideration. 

 

Ms. Joseph noted that there should be a reminder to everybody that they do have a noise ordinance.  She suggested that staff 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.

 

Mr. Strucko asked for the sake of time he would like to move along.  He asked if all of the concerns been aired on this issue.  He thanked Mr. Hayes for coming.

 

·        The Planning Commission plans to participate with the Board of Supervisors in the wind turbine work session on May 6. 

 

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