At their meeting on January 13, 2009 the Albemarle County Planning Commission asked the planning staff to

continue work

on a wind turbine ordinance despite staff’s recommendation to defer for two years.  Wind turbines are not allowed in Albemarle County under current zoning.   At the conclusion of the work session, the Commission voted 6-0 (

Jon Cannon

(Rio) absent) to direct staff to continue drafting of an ordinance which would outline regulations for smaller wind turbines. Mark Graham, Director of Community Development, explained that the best places for wind turbines in Albemarle County would be along ridgelines. He presented two possible scenarios for wind turbines in Albemarle County, one where turbines would be built 30ft taller than the surrounding tree canopy and one in which shorter turbines could be used but the surrounding trees would need to be cleared. “The big issue we have to deal with is the height you need to get the turbines above the things that would block the wind,” Graham said.


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Graham also emphasized that using mountain ridge wind as an energy resource may lead to a conflict between natural heritage concerns and promoting renewable energy, a conflict he said staff may not be equipped to handle at this time.  He explained that the Commission would need to make the decision to accept the aesthetic impact of turbines in the rural areas.  Additionally, Graham questioned whether devoting staff hours to this ordinance right now made sense.  “There’s a lot of question whether there’s pressing demand for these things,” he said, recommending a two year deferral.

Planning Commissioner

Marcia Joseph

(At-Large) expressed concern that tabling the wind turbine ordinance would set Albemarle County back in their ability to be on the cutting edge of the renewable energy issue. Commissioners Joseph and

Bill Edgerton

(Jack Jouett) volunteered to assist staff in the drafting of a new ordinance.

During the public comment portion of the work session, Morgan Butler of the Southern Environmental Law Center encouraged the County to continue efforts rather than to table them for two years.  “The best course of action would be to take fairly small steps in the first ordinance change but to periodically revisit the issue to apply what the experience has taught us,” he said.  Butler suggested that renewable energy enthusiasts in the County might be willing to act as trial runs for a new wind turbine ordinance.

Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum suggested that the County use a tiered method for approval of wind turbines, allowing greater review as height increases, a suggestion that was reiterated by Commissioner Edgerton later on.  “Perhaps we pursue an ordinance provision which allows more scrutiny the higher it got,” he said.

Commissioner

Tom Loach

(White Hall) expressed concern that suggestions for wind turbines have been inconsistent with cell tower restrictions and that the staff find a way to resolve the inconsistencies.  Commission Chairman

Eric Strucko

(Samuel Miller) suggested that staff utilize the Commissioners who have volunteered to write the ordinance and get the County to move ahead on this issue.

Any ordinance drafted by the staff and Commissioners will come back for further review and a public hearing before being considered by the Board of Supervisors.

Fania Gordon

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