Friday, February 4, 2011


Did Our Roanoke County Planning Commission Realize What They Were Doing?

100 foot tall turbines, 1/8th mile apart
110' from Parkway Boundaries

In an emotional plea at last Tuesday night's public hearing regarding "small scale wind turbines", citizens' pleaded that their Planning Commission consider economically damaging  impacts regarding the imposition of utilitarian structures in our scenic views, particularly from the Blue Ridge Parkway. The above photo-simulation represents a theoretical visual impact of "small scale" 100' tall wind turbines along a one-half mile section of the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Bonsack area in eastern Roanoke County, that the proposed ordinance amendment would have allowed. Specifically, 100 foot tall wind turbines as close as 110 feet from the parkway boundaries at every 1/8th mile along the entire length of the parkway through Roanoke County.

 A long-time Planning Commissioner from the Catawba Magisterial District quickly recognized the visual damage that the amendment as written might impose. The other commissioners and a planning staffer entered into a discussion with intent to modify the proposed amendment to protect the scenic views.

Hastily, within a public hearing format, one commissioner insisted that the amendment MUST be forwarded to the BOS for passage because they had "...been working on the amendment for 18 months." Staff concerns were expressed based upon one citizen's expressed desire to erect a 113 foot tall wind turbine, which would have already been required to be reviewed on an individual basis by Special Use Permit.

During the hearing, notes were hastily shuffled between staff and the commissioners (Chairman Gary Jarrel was not present) in a hurried attempt to respond to agreed upon view shed concerns.

This resulted in a arbitrary discussion of  heights of turbines and related setbacks, because, in a public hearing format, none of the governmental participants knew how to explore open discussion of options.

The Result?

60 foot turbines 1/10th mile apart
66' from Parkway Boundaries

The difference as our Planning Commission understands the ordinance is that the scenic views will not be affected if we allow more turbines of smaller size closer to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Hello?

Now let's view it as a parkway visitor will see it with a 60 foot tower in view:

This is a close up of the 60 foot size from the Parkway.

Yet our "politically-oriented" Planning Commission members rationalize to themselves that they are acting in the best interests of the citizens of Roanoke County.

From my personal experience and understanding of "governmental dynamics", I am confident that none of our appointed officials has any motive, other than fulfilling "civic duty", at heart in their actions.

Does this make sense?

I don't think so and our ordinance should be not be compromised with such a lack of thoughtfulness.