Tuesday, February 1, 2011

How Do We Protect Our Scenic Views?

 A View from a future Bent Mountain Community Visitor Center

A View from a future Bent Mountain Community Visitor Center
with wind turbines.
Item 1

Year after year and decade after decade, the community planning activities I have been directly involved in have heard nearly unanimous community wide concern that we protect our treasured scenic views. It is still on record as being a primary desire of the citizenry, yet no significant protection exists in Roanoke County's zoning ordinance. Attempts have been initiated, but never successful, in Roanoke County over "property rights" based concerns.

Now we have an exacerbated potential visual impact and our impotence to addressing the issue threatens one of the most widely recognized economic opportunities for the future of our region: Tourism. It is our obligation to our children to preserve a future for them. We must preserve as much of the natural ecosystems as we can for them.

As fate would have it; we, residents and friends of Bent Mountain have a brightly optimistic vision of the future for our cherished Blue Ridge community. The potential desecration of the ridges is a far greater cost to the future of any community than any unproven benefit of a scheme to replace coal mining. Today, Roanoke County has no ordinance or drafts for one that will protect the citizens from one of their most prominent concerns: protection of, and reverence for, the view-sheds in our scenic garden in the Blue Ridge.

Item 2

Between 20 & 25 years ago Roanoke County changed its Charter. Members of the County Administration at the time were successful in attaching an amendment onto a bill in the Virginia State Legislature, which was passed, that transferred the authority of appointment of BZA members from the Courts to the elected Board of Supervisors as well as extracted Special Use Permits from the purview of the quasi-judicial BZA to the politically-based BOS and administration. This has proven to have removed a fundamental check and balance of our form of government that has left our citizenry “naked” to abusive practices of development.

The procedure apparently followed is the PC recommends to the BOS either yea/nay on various issues.

In this case, the “small wind turbine amendment”, i.e., 10 stories ~100 feet or less, 6 stories - 60 feet or less, this commission proposes the supervisors pass this amendment into law without regard for visual impact at all. So this would be a “by right”, property-owner option. Theoretically, you could be allowing 100 60 foot tall wind turbine towers within 110' 66' feet of the Blue Ridge Parkway boundaries, every 1/8th 1/10th of a mile of alternating sides through all of Roanoke County.

Note: The edits in blue are following the Roanoke Planning Commission Meeting, Tuesday evening, February1, 2011. The Roanoke County Planning Commission responded to "view-shed" concerns by requiring all wind turbines over sixty feet to be reviewed under a "Special Use Permit Process" The proposed amendment being on the table for action, the Planning Commission chose to hastily modify their proposed amendment, instead of delaying to consider, apparently, agreed upon, serious scenic view issues. IRONICALLY, in their haste to protect the Blue Ridge Parkway, they have actually intensified the threat.

By “Special Use Permit” you still have not put in place any description of how you will address view shed issues. You are merely putting of the inevitable as Special Use Permits are being circuited right back again through this same body instead of the BZA. I am sure, responsible citizens that you are, you will understand the ”tears in the armour” protecting our community need to be corrected quickly.

Please. Please Please. Don't hesitate to challenge these views by leaving a comment. We need to enter into a rational discussion of our future. These are NOT political issues.