The Carroll County Board of Supervisors has elected to take more time to gather information regarding utility scale windmill projects in Carroll County.
During a public hearing on the matter Aug. 13, the board heard from 11 citizens, with the majority of the speakers opposing windmills in Carroll County. The subject of windmills first came up during an April 9 meeting when Pine Creek District Supervisor Bob Martin noted that a company from Texas was proposing to place windmills on Stoots Mountain. The company, EDP Renewables/Horizon Wind Energy, had representatives at the Aug. 13 meeting to answer citizen questions.
Andy Jones opened the public hearing by saying he opposes windmills. While he realizes the county has felt the downturn in the economy and the price of real estate has dropped, he didn’t think windmills on Stoots Mountain would benefit either aspect.
“My house value has actually dropped 30 percent. This will drop it even more,” Jones said. “Instead of helping a few people, this will hurt a lot of people.”
Michael Millar also spoke against windmills. He said he moved to Carroll County from Florida 15 years ago. What drew him to Carroll was the beauty of the area, the trees, mountains and fall colors.
“I oppose windmills because they stand out. I’ve been in the Midwest and they have a lot on the plains and on small hills. They don’t stand out that much, but they would make a difference on the mountains and the scenery we have in Carroll County,” Millar said. “I think it would be a tragedy to put windmills on those mountains.”
Roger Jennings agreed with Millar. He said windmills will take away from the beauty of Carroll County, not to mention the noise they will produce and effect on property values.
Bryan Dixon was the first to speak in favor of windmills. He said he is one of the landowners involved in the project. He said he went to the Laurel community and collected 200 signatures in favor of the windmills. He said he didn’t get any signatures opposed to the project, although one citizen was undecided.
“We have to realize how much they will bring. In two years (the company has) already spent $100,000 in Carroll County. They have checked their equipment, they have stayed in Carroll overnight,” Dixon said. “They have assured me all material for the project will come from Carroll County. I look for everyone’s opinion because I want to be a good neighbor. We had some concerns before about blocking roads, it’s not going to happen. I will state that I did attend the Poor Man’s Dinner and got a few delegates to sign in support.”
John Hinchman said he’s not really in favor of or opposed to windmills. However, he said he felt the board of supervisors needed to do a little more research.
“I think it would behoove the supervisors to put together a fact-finding effort and go to Boone, North Carolina,” Hinchman said. “They had a windmill for 10 to 15 years. Let them talk to some people that were around the windmills for a long time.”
Robert Frazier said he lives in the same area as Dixon and he never asked him to sign a petition.
“I’m against it because we have one of the prettiest areas of the country right here and I wouldn’t mind seeing it stay that way,” Frazier said.
Don Foster of Fancy Gap said he’s against windmills for various reasons. He and his wife moved here 10 years ago after living in California for 20 years. When they drove to Sam Francisco and Palm Springs, they would see thousands and thousands of windmills.
“We moved here because we wanted to live in an area that was pretty. I would hate to see it devastated by windmills,” Foster said. “If tourists see these windmills they will turn around and go somewhere else. I don’t want to see what happened in California, Arizona and Texas happen here. I’d ask you to also consider (the impact it would have on) animals and taking away their habitat.”
Harry Smart said he and his wife recently moved to Carroll from Arizona. He said he’s seen the windmills in California that Foster mentioned.
“They are an eyesore,” Smart said. “Half of them are in disrepair and they would destroy the beauty here.”
Chad Austin spoke in favor of windmills because of the money they would bring to the area.
“We need the tax revenue, $50 million I was told. It’s green energy. I think we owe it to our children and grandchildren,” Austin said. “We’ve had other developments such as the 30 acres at Wildwood with nobody there. We will get $50 million of tax revenue, so I think it would be a good option for the county.”
Brad Carico said fossil fuels will soon be a thing of the past. Everybody is moving toward renewable, green energy, he said.
“Everybody wants to go green, but if they have to sacrifice something they don’t want it in their backyard. I enjoy the outdoors and mountains of our area as much as anyone,” Carico said. “I don’t personally feel a few windmills on Stoots Mountain will (hurt) tourism in Carroll.”
Carico said he’s not really for or against windmills, but he would like the board to make an informed decision. He said they should research models in neighboring counties such as Tazewell. He said there are maps available that show areas suitable for sustainable wind energy.
“There is a very small part of Carroll County that would meet the criteria,” he said. “I think we could help individuals in Carroll County and still have the beauty.”
Former Carroll supervisor and current Carroll IDA member Andy Jackson was the last speaker in the public hearing. He asked the board to take a long look at areas that have brought in windmills. He said Appalachian State University in Boone put up a windmill for a part of a study to see if windmills were feasible in the eastern United States.
“If you check with them, you’ll get the results and they’ll tell you why they took it down. It sounds good because green, reneweable energy is a great thing. But just because it’s a good thing doesn’t mean it is a good thing for your area,” Jackson said. “Make sure we make a wise and informed decision. Virginia Tech and Appalachian State don’t have an axe to grind with any of these companies, so what they give you should be factual.”
After the public hearing, Board of Supervisors’ Chairman Sam Dickson asked supervisors Bob Martin and Joshua Hendrick if they wanted to make a suggestion about windmills since they make up the county’s committee to study windmills. Martin said there still seemed to be a lot of confusion.
“I’d like to take a longer look at it,” Martin said.
Considering that, Dickson said the board would continue to gather information. He told citizens if they had any information about windmills, to please get it to Martin and/or Hendrick.