Public Hearing on the Highland New Wind Project

Approval of a Conditional Use Permit

The hearing before the Board of Supervisors in the Highland Elementary School gym began at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, 19 May 2005, and ended at 1:55 a.m. on the 20th. After a long presentation by two attorneys for HNWD, 18 members of the public, as well as two shills for the wind industry, spoke in favor of the project. This took almost an hour, from 7:30 until about 8:25. After a short break, 81 people spoke for five hours in opposition. Dozens more opponents had left by the time their names were called after midnight. After closing the hearing the Supervisors voted to table the matter and continued their meeting. It was later decided to vote on the conditional use permit on 14 July, right at the end of the 60-day period allowed by law. Below is a list of articles from The Recorder covering this hearing in great detail.

On 14 July 2005 the Highland County Board of Supervisors approved a conditional use permit for McBride’s project with a 2-1 vote, with Robin Sullenberger voting nay. McBride must now file an application with the State Corporation Commission but this has not been done as of 15 September. As I understand it, the SCC could conduct an expedited review because the project is less that 50 MW. It is important for them to conduct a comprehensive review, especially since this is the first wind proposal in Virginia. They should also be urged to hold a public hearing locally. Below is a list of articles from The Recorder covering this decision in great detail, including Sullenberger’s statement regarding his ‘no’ vote. Three lawsuits have been filed as a result of actions taken by the Highland supervisors. One challenges the height change to the zoning ordinance, the second deals with threats to endangered species, and the latest challenges the conditional-use permit itself. Stay tuned . . . .

John R. Sweet, Mustoe, VA