By CHARLIE BOOTHE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
TAZEWELL, Va. — A wind turbine farm atop East River Mountain in Tazewell County may still be on the horizon.
“Dominion still considers Tazewell to be a viable project, and we continue recording wind data on East River Mountain to further evaluate the potential of the site,” said Daisy Pridgen, spokesman for Dominion Virginia Power in Richmond.
She would not elaborate on any details and said as of now that is the official statement from the company.
Eastern District Supervisor Charlie Stacy said he has not heard of any plans of the project moving forward.
“I have had no contact, no communication with Dominion,” he said, adding that Dominion does own a lot of land.
“But I haven’t heard a peep out of Dominion on this,” he said.
Stacy said he is going to Richmond today for a legislative meeting and he may learn more while he is there.
“That is where we frequently run into folks from Dominion,” he said. “Sometimes they share information, sometimes they don’t.”
Dominion acquired more than 2,600 acres of land on East River Mountain near Bluefield, Va., in 2009 for the purpose of developing a proposed large-scale wind turbine farm. The county supervisors later adopted the so-called tall structure ordinance that intended to protect certain ridgelines, including East River Mountain.
The Eastern District ordinance restricted the height of any structure, capping it at 40 feet. When the length of the blades are included, the industrial turbines reach more than 300 feet in height.
When another, even more restrictive, ordinance to try to prevent the wind farm was being discussed in 2015, Dominion objected.
The company submitted a letter to the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors and the Tazewell County Planning Commission detailing various objections to the proposed zoning ordinance, which would prohibit certain “undesirable developments,” including wind turbines and medical waste facilities.
In the letter, Jim Eck, vice president of business development for Dominion, said the company “remains convinced” that Tazewell County has the necessary resources for the development of a utility scale wind project, adding that the best way to address the energy needs of Virginia is through an “all of the above” approach that includes nuclear, coal, natural gas, hydro, solar and wind. Eck adds in the letter that Dominion wishes “to preserve our option to responsible develop” the wind turbine project on East River Mountain.
“I think they are certainly going to take every approach possible to say we are singling out this industrial wind project with this ordinance, and that would be a legal challenge they could raise,” Stacy said at the time. “This ordinance in my opinion is a death blow to that project. They perceive it that way. Now whether they would abandon that project if that ordinance is here — I don’t know. But we were very clear to them in (2009) that the community didn’t want this project.”
Stacy said the majority of those citizens living in the Eastern District appear to remain largely opposed to the idea of a large-scale wind turbine farm on scenic East River Mountain.
The proposed ordinance eventually came before the supervisors and the planning commission in February 2016.
But after listening to almost three hours of arguments for and against it in front of a large crowd, the planning commission voted to scrap it.
“The ordinance is dead on motion of the planning commission,” Stacy said at the time.
However, few people addressed the wind turbine issue, he said. They were more concerned about the general principle of zoning, and did not want it.
Several speakers said passing any zoning ordinance in the Eastern District could spread to all around the county.
“There is no appetite for doing any zoning,” supervisors Chairman Mike Hymes said after that meeting. “The two people who made the motion to scrap the zoning plan were both from the Southern District, my district. My constituents are strongly against zoning and therefore I am too.”
Stacy, who is also a member of the planning commission and supported the ordinance, agreed that residents do not want any zoning.
“I am not feeling comfortable at this point to ask the board to go against what was large scale opposition,” he said. “We have the ability to do that (direct the planning commission to develop another zoning ordinance) but you have to recognize the volume of voices from citizens.”
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