Albemarle County Planning Commission

November 17, 2009





ZTA-2009-00001 Wind Turbines

Amend Secs. 3.1, Definitions, 10.2.1, By right, 11.3.1, By right uses, 12.2.1, By right, 13.2.1, By right, 14.2.1, By right, 15.2.1, By right, 16.2.1, By right, 17.2.1, By right, 18.2.1, By right, 19.3.1, By right,  20.3.1, By right, 20A.6, Permitted uses, 20B.2, Permitted uses, 22.2.1, By right, 23.2.1, By right, 24.2.1, By right, 27.2.1, By right, 28.2.1, By right, and add Sec. 5.1.46, Small wind turbines, of Chapter 18, Zoning, of the Albemarle County Code.  This ordinance would add small wind turbines as a by right use in all zoning districts and standardize the introduction of each of those sections (Secs. 10.2.1 through 28.2.1 listed above), would amend Sec. 3.1 to add definitions of "small wind turbines" and associated terms and "historic areas," and would add Sec. 5.1.46 to establish substantive and procedural requirements to establish and use small wind turbines.  A copy of the full text of the ordinance is on file in the office of the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors and in the Department of Community Development, County Office Building, 401 McIntire Road, Charlottesville, Virginia. (Mark Graham)


Mr. Graham presented a PowerPoint presentation and summarized the executive summary.


This is a public hearing to provide a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors on the zoning text amendment with respect to wind turbines.


In February 2008, the County Board of Supervisors (Board) reviewed Community Development’s annual work program and directed staff to include consideration of an amendment to the Zoning Ordinance that would allow wind turbines.  In May 2008, staff presented the Planning Commission an overview of the subject to solicit direction.  This was followed by four additional work sessions, including a combined Board/Planning Commission worksession in May 2009.  Following that May 2009 worksession, a Board member, David Slutzky, and two Planning Commission members, Marcia Joseph and Bill Edgerton, agreed to help staff prepare a draft concept.  On October 6, 2009, the Planning Commission reviewed this draft concept, approved a resolution of intent to amend the Zoning Ordinance in support of this concept, and directed staff to proceed to public hearing. This is provided in the staff report in Attachment A.

Staff has prepared an ordinance amendment for public hearing that reflects the reviewed concept. (See Staff Report Attachment B)    The purpose of tonight’s meeting is to provide a public hearing where comment can be received on the proposed ordinance amendment before the Planning Commission forwards  a recommendation to the Board.  Anticipating a Planning Commission recommendation, a Board public hearing has been tentatively scheduled for December 9, 2009.


Staff believes the ordinance amendment in Attachment B accurately represents the Planning Commission’s direction.  The ordinance concept laid out today for a wind turbine is a two tier concept very similar to the concept used for cell towers or personal wireless facilities.


Staff considers the following to be the important elements of this proposal:


Staff recommends the adoption of ZTA-2009-0001 Wind Turbines as presented in Attachment B with the addition of the fall zone definition.


Mr. Strucko invited questions from the Commission.  There being no questions at this time he opened the public hearing and invited public comment.


Kathy Rash represented Forever Albemarle that was a group from the White Hall District in favor of wind turbines in our area. They have been having local meetings with farmers and others in the area.  They think they should look at wind turbines in the county to help in the farming areas and the residents around farms.  They are thrilled that this is being considered and thank them for their efforts.


Jeff Werner, with the Piedmont Environmental Council, agreed with Ms. Rash that it is good to move forward on this.  Overall the way it is broken down is the way they wanted to see it when they talk about the Entrance Corridors being Tier I or II. He was most concerned about historic districts and ridge tops which has been taken care of, but hoped that they don’t see wind turbines on monopoles.   The visibility issue is going to be there.  Everyone in the Albemarle County has worked hard to protect the view shed and he did not want to give up on that with the wind turbines but still encourage them.  He supported that when an issue comes up that they aesthetically look at the pros and cons of the issues.  He supported looking at possibly requiring Tier II for the Entrance Corridor in areas such as Route 250 west.  He asked for some clarification on whether a public hearing is conducted by the Planning Commission or if it is just something that they see.


Morgan Butler, representative for the Southern Environmental Law Center, asked to add his voice in applauding the county for promoting renewable energy.  It is important for the county to facilitate the use of wind turbines, but at the same time it is important that they balance this important use with other scenic and environmental values that the county has long promoted.  In the context of this ordinance when they are talking about balance they are not talking about when something is permitted or when something is prohibited.  They are simply talking about when something has a potential impact that it generates

an additional level of review other than at staff level.  He raised the following three points.

1.     The question of whether or not a public hearing is involved as part of the Tier II is an important one.  He liked that this ordinance requires notifying the adjacent landowners.  But the notice could be meaningless if the owners don’t have a chance to come before the Planning Commission to discuss their concerns and help influence the conditions the Commission may decide on a particular turbine. 

2.     The question on whether to require a special use permit for wind turbines in the Entrance Corridor is a tricky one.  He could see merits to both approaches where they have gone to great lengths to try to protect our Entrance Corridors but at the same time try to promote wind turbine.  He questioned whether there was some kind of middle ground.    At the last meeting Mr. Kamptner said that wind turbines could potentially be considered as one of these county wide certificates of appropriateness they discussed earlier tonight.  He questioned if there was a way to limit it to just those entrance corridors that have more of that scenic value as suggested by Mr. Werner.  He felt that is an important consideration.

3.     It looks like anything said to limit the overall number of wind turbines on a parcel has been dropped.  It simply says that they provide energy for the primary use on the parcel. If there was an excessive use on the parcel they could have any number of wind turbines on the parcel.  He did not necessarily think that is a bad thing, but it may indeed be one of those situations that might need an additional level of review. If they get to the third wind turbine on that parcel, then perhaps it would kick it into another level or a Tier II review.


There being no further public comment, Mr. Strucko closed the public hearing to bring the matter before the Planning Commission for further action.


Ms. Porterfield noted concerns with the view shed issues because she hears more about it because of Monticello being located in her district.   She wondered if there should be some kind of additional review if the wind turbine was in the view shed.  She was concerned with a blanket by-right in the Entrance Corridor since it may negate many of the other things they are trying to achieve.  If they are going to do by-right in the Entrance Corridors she suggested that they select two different items being the single family residential since that is not subject to ARB review and that the other would be main and accessory residential forestall and agricultural buildings so to allow to be Tier I if in Entrance Corridor.  The other items she felt should be reviewed as a Tier II.  From beginning she had been concerned about not putting a limit on the number of wind turbines that could be placed on a parcel without at least required a Tier II review. 


Mr. Morris thanked Mr. Graham because this has come a long way. He saw with great joy on the news today one community in the mid-west that is totally powered by wind power and no more fossil fuel. That is not what we are looking at, but it is a start.  He commended staff and supported the application.


Mr. Edgerton said that he was enthusiastic about this approach. He thanked Mr. Graham for figuring out a reasonable approach to start this process.  He did not think that those issues are going to become an issue in the near future because the cost of doing this and the economic viability.  His interests initially is leaving the door open in encouraging people when the value is there and prohibit it for something that is not going to happen to worry needlessly. If it became a problem they could tighten it up.  This ZTA as proposed will allow the testing of whether this makes sense in Albemarle County and have people think of sustainable energy.  When thinking of an investment of 25 to 30 thousand dollars it is significant.


Motion:  Mr. Edgerton moved and Mr. Morris seconded to recommend approval of ZTA-2009-00001 Wind Turbines in accordance with Attachment B including the definition of fall zone.


Ms. Porterfield wondered if there was any support for making a few minor changes.


Mr. Graham noted that they need to recognize when a Certificate of Appropriateness is required or not.  If there is a site plan required there is a Certificate of Appropriate required.  The single-family house and farming use is not covered with that Certificate of Appropriateness.  If it was a site plan and there was a commercial building it would be expected to be shown with that site plan and therefore it falls with the Certificate of Appropriateness and the Architectural Review Board is going to review that.    He asked Mr. Kamptner if he was correct.


Mr. Kamptner noted that it would if the prerequisite for that triggers their oversight exists.  But the Entrance Corridor Overlay District also exists as a territory and something apart from ARB review.


Ms. Porterfield said if the building is done and the site has been approved and there is no site plan and they are only adding the wind turbines to the top of the roof  would it be looked at.


Mr. Graham said that this would be no different than if they came in to exchange out the air conditioning units on the building and they need new parapets around the air conditioning unit.  There is an ARB review with that.


Mr. Kamptner said that what has been suggested is including not only ridge areas and historic areas but the physical areas that are comprised of the Entrance Corridors as being those areas that should be subject to Tier II.  Not necessarily ARB review but simply having the small wind turbines in those territories should be Tier II instead of Tier I.


Mr. Edgerton said that sounds like a reasonable approach except for the fact that as staff has explained that will add substantially to the cost of this and in so doing will discourage the implementation of this technology.  Therefore, he had a problem with that.


Ms. Porterfield noted that she was suggesting that any one that is a single-family home or the farm uses would not fall under Tier II and would be exempted if in the Entrance Corridor.  It would be the other types of uses such as commercial uses that are probably the most prominent in the Entrance Corridors.


Mr. Edgerton noted that he deferred to the majority of the Commission, but personally would like to leave the motion as it stays.


Mr. Kamptner said that if the requirements were as Ms. Porterfield suggested then it is essentially in most or if not all cases those facilities would be subject to ARB review anyway because they would be serving commercial uses so there would be review under the ARB. 


Ms. Porterfield said that the wind turbines would automatically be reviewed even though it would be by right.


Mr. Kamptner said that within the Entrance Corridor if they exclude residential uses, agriculture and forestal related structures then this would be an accessory structure to a commercial use. Therefore if visible and within the Entrance Corridor the wind turbine would be subject to ARB review.  In addition, if they wanted any kind of waiver from any of the small wind turbine Tier I standards it would require coming to the Planning Commission. 


Mr. Porterfield asked if they need to rewrite it to indicate the exclusions.


Mr. Kamptner replied that is the way it is written now.


Mr. Graham noted that the Tier 1 facility with a commercial building in the Entrance Corridor the ARB still has to approve it.  It is already implied.


Mr. Strucko asked if the process for reviewing the Tier II by the Planning Commission would involve a public hearing. 


Mr. Kamptner replied that as the Commission does with almost everything that comes before them they invite public comment.  It is not the mandatory public hearing that is held for zoning map and zoning text amendments, Comp Plan amendments and special use permits. But it would be akin to the Tier II Wireless considerations, waiver considerations, site plans and subdivision plats where public comment is always permitted.


Ms. Porterfield asked if there is any support for a limit on the Tier I for the numbers that can be Tier I before going to Tier II on a piece of property.


Mr. Edgerton and Mr. Morris did not support it.


Mr. Kamptner asked if the Commission wants to include the definition of the fall zone that staff recommends which is included in the Wireless regulations.


Mr. Edgerton replied that was the intent of the motion.


The motion passed by a vote of 4:0.


Mr. Strucko personally thanked Ms. Joseph and Mr. Edgerton who were really instrumental in getting this to the point where they are today.  He also thanked Mr. Graham and his staff for their hard work.  He noted that ZTA-2009-00001 Wind Turbines would go before the Board of Supervisors on December 9, 2009 with a recommendation for approval.


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