Planning Commission Meeting, 24 February 2005

The PC received a request from Highlanders for Reponsible Development to review two amendments to the zoning ordinance which would ban industrial-scale wind turbines and limit the height of any structure to less than 200 feet. (This request is discussed in more detail on the HRD web site, including links to the specific documents submitted.) The PC also received an amendment proposal from the Board of Supervisors, which had been discussed at a Board meeting two weeks ago, as well as a new proposal from the Board unveiled this evening. This meeting and the proposals were noted in the Staunton News Leader on 22 February.

56 people packed Highland County’s modular conference center on a snowy night when county officials considered alternate proposals to the county’s zoning ordinance that could either allow or prohibit industrial wind turbines in the county. The Board of Zoning Appeals is at left, the Planning Commission is at the head table, and the Board of Supervisors is at right. County Counsel Melissa Dowd, black sweater, is conferring with County Administrator Roberta Lambert, both standing at right.   Photo by Rick Webb

Taking the BOS proposals first, Jerry Rexrode addressed the fact that Counsel, Melissa Dowd, was concerned by the lack of any “teeth” in the amendment due to the lack of a specific time frame by which an applicant must comply with certain conditions. Melissa presented another amendment proposal to deal with this, specifically an addition to §802.03-7, to the effect that an applicant must comply with all conditions set by the Board before a building permit can be issued or the condititional use put into effect. Because this was a last-minute addition and because the PC had several questions about possible conflicts with other sections of the zoning ordinance, they received the request but took no action. Presumably it will be discussed at the March meeting and set for public hearing thereafter, probably at their April meeting.

The PC then addressed the HRD proposal. Melissa reminded everyone that a private citizen or group does not have standing to make application for changes to ordinances, as such changes must originate with the Board of Supervisors or the Planning Commission itself. However, HRD did this as a request, not as a formal application, and it was agreed that the PC could take it up for discussion and then decide to forward it to the Board, in whole or in part, with whatever recommendation it sees fit. No Board member objected to this process and the PC seemed to listen attentively as I went through the actual amendments being proposed and then briefly touched the high points of the supporting documentation. I expect that the members will review this material over the next few weeks and then discuss it at their March meeting. What happens after that is anybody’s guess. PC member Tony Stinnett was absent from this meeting.

Planning Commission Meeting, 24 March 2005

The PC set a public hearing for 21 April on the various zoning amendments submitted by the Board of Supervisors. There was no other action related to wind power. The handling of other issues on the agenda pointed up the need for a complete overhaul of the county zoning and subdivision plans before something serious and irreversible occurs.

John R. Sweet, Mustoe, VA