Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Review Comments of the draft of Roanoke County’s “Large/Utility Scale Wind Energy System Ordinance

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 (Edited Mar 17,2011)

Following are review comments of the draft of Roanoke County’s “Large/Utility Scale Wind Energy System Ordinance. These comments will be offered to Planning commissioners at tonight’s Work Session.

Article IV – Use and Design Standards
SECTION 30-87-7. Wind Energy System, Large; and Wind Energy System, Utility


3. Setbacks: Large wind energy systems and utility wind energy systems shall be set back a minimum distance of one hundred ten percent (110%) of the height of the wind energy system from all adjoining non-participating property lines. The Board of Supervisors may increase the minimum required setbacks as appropriate, based on site specific considerations during the special use permit process.

The setback requirement is inadequate. A 110% of the height setback requirement is identical to the setback requirement established for small wind turbines. Large industrial scale wind turbines are far more threatening to life & safety concerns for adjacent property owners by virtue of their size alone. When the 440’ + height is considered concurrently with the understanding that the ridges of mountains in our local terrain are the most attractive locations for wind developers, we must recognize in the interest of public safety that the minimum setback needs to be far greater than what your planning staff has proposed.

The fundamental purpose of the Planning Commission is to advise the Board of Supervisors. The draft states that BOS may increase setback requirements. This is an appropriate application of the Special Use Permit process.


4. Separation: The minimum distance required between towers shall be established during the special use permit process by the Board of Supervisors.

Again, the fundamental purpose of the Planning Commission is to advise the Board of Supervisors. The draft states that BOS shall establish separation requirements. This places the responsibility solely on the BOS to protect the public, with NO studied guidance. In either case this is an inappropriate application of the Special Use Permit process.


5. Noise: Large wind energy systems and utility wind energy systems shall not exceed 60 decibels (dba), as measured at the closest non-participating property line, except during short-term events such as severe windstorms. An analysis, prepared by an acoustical engineer with a professional engineering license in the Commonwealth of Virginia, shall be provided to demonstrate compliance with this noise standard. Based upon site specific considerations, the Board of Supervisors may increase the decibel level during the special use permit process.

The 60 decibel proposed minimum standard is far too high to protect adjacent property owner’s from nuisance and economic affect on property value in AG-3 and AG-1 locations. Bill Gregory, EIT, a professional engineer with an acoustics specialty advised in the last public hearing that to be effective in preventing negative impacts, particularly in regard to public health and safety issues, sound levels below 32 hertz should be addressed as well.


Regarding the “analysis, prepared by an acoustical engineer with a professional engineering license in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” the applicant should reimburse the County, who would be responsible for obtaining the expertise for such analysis. It should not be done under the guidance of the applicant.


As 60 decibels is on the high end of the sound spectrum between moderate and high levels, it is inconceivable why the ordinance would provide the BOS an opportunity to “increase the decibel level during the special use permit process.” This is an inappropriate application of the Special Use Permit process.


The adjacent graph was provide by County staff to the Board of Supervisors

13. Removal of Defective or Abandoned Large Wind Energy Systems or Utility Wind Energy Systems

(a) At such time that a large wind energy system or utility wind energy system is scheduled to be abandoned or discontinued, the owner shall notify the Zoning Administrator by certified U.S. mail of the proposed date of abandonment or discontinuation of operations.

(b) Within 180 days of the date of abandonment or discontinuation, the owner shall physically remove the large wind energy system or utility wind energy system. This period may be extended at the request of the owner and at the discretion of the County. Physically remove shall include but not be limited to:

i. Removal of the wind turbine and tower, all machinery, equipment, equipment shelters, security barriers and all appurtenant structures from the subject property;

ii. Proper disposal of all solid or hazardous materials and wastes from the site in accordance with local and state solid waste disposal regulations;

iii. Restoration of the location of the large wind energy system or utility wind energy system to its natural preexisting condition, except that any landscaping or grading may remain in the after-condition if a written request is submitted by the landowner to the County.

iv. Foundations shall be removed to a depth of three (3) feet below ground level or covered to an equivalent depth with fill material. At the time of removal, the site shall be restored to its pre-existing condition. If a written request is submitted by the landowner to the County then this requirement may be waived or altered for any other legally authorized use. Restoration shall be verified by the County.

(c) If the large wind energy system or utility wind energy system, or any part thereof, is inoperable for more than 180 days and the owner fails to give such notice to the County, then the large wind energy system or utility wind energy system shall be considered abandoned or discontinued. The County shall determine in its decision what proportion of the large wind energy system or utility wind energy system is inoperable for the wind energy system to be considered abandoned.

(d) Decommissioning:

i. If an applicant fails to remove a large wind energy system or utility wind energy system in accordance with this section of this ordinance, the County shall have the authority to enter the subject property and physically remove the facility. The County shall require the applicant, and/or subsequent owners of the property or large wind energy system or utility wind energy system, to provide a form of surety mutually agreeable to the applicant and the County to cover costs of the removal in the event the County must remove the facility.

ii. Prior to obtaining a Certificate of Occupancy and Zoning Compliance from the County and on every tenth (10th) anniversary of the commencement of the commercial operation of the Project, applicant shall provide to the County an estimate of the projected salvage value of the turbines and other equipment to be removed from the Project site (“Salvage Value”), as well as the projected cost of removing the turbines and other equipment from the site as determined by an independent engineer mutually agreeable to the applicant and County (“Gross Decommissioning Cost”).

iii. Based on this determination, applicant shall post and maintain decommissioning funds in an amount equal to Net Decommissioning Cost, that being Gross Decommissioning Cost minus Salvage value.

iv. Decommissioning Funds may be in the form of a 100% performance bond and Labor and Materials Payment bond, surety bond, letter of credit, corporate guarantee or other form of financial assurance as may be mutually acceptable to the applicant and the county.

v. The Decommissioning Funds shall be posted and maintained with a bonding company or Federal or State chartered lending institution mutually agreeable to the applicant and County.


13. b. iv. As this ordinance is intended to apply “County-wide,” consideration must be given to the type of natural vegetation that might naturally occur at specific sites. In many cases 3 feet deep may be adequate to assure a natural restoration, however this could be inadequate in other locations. Fill material must also be further defined to match indigenous soils. Gravel and debris may not be suitable as natural restorative growth media.

13. c. “such notice” is not coherently referenced.

13. d. ii. Salvage value should not be a consideration required of Roanoke County. Such language serves only the interests of the project developer/owner in terms of reducing the amount of Decommissioning funds required to develop such projects.

Scenic views consideration is not addressed at all,
despite clear repeated directives from Roanoke County citizens to the Planning Commission through the Roanoke County Comprehensive Plan. View shed analyses conducted and documented, at considerable County expense, by Roanoke County Staff and the Blue Ridge Parkway in the mid 1990’s through the early 2000’s have not been provided to the current Planning Commission for consideration during the development of either the small or large wind turbine ordinances.

Article II, Section 3028

– Definitions

No amendments have been proposed to attempt to define Ridge Tops, View Sheds, Scenic views and other necessary definitions required to address these essential descriptions of elements of repeated concern of the citizenry.


This is not an easy concern to address. The Planning Commission’s most recent “on-the-fly” attempt to modify the “small scale wind turbine” amendment to address view shed concerns was totally misunderstood and invalidated by the Board of Supervisors.


The National Park Service via the Blue Ridge Parkway and its Chief Landscape Architect, Gary Johnson, has provided information to current Roanoke County staff and to this date, that information has only been provided to the Board of Supervisors according to Freedom of Information Act requests of Roanoke County government. The Planning Commission requested such information during your February 1, 2011 public hearing and was told by the Roanoke County Deputy Director of Planning and Zoning that “all that is available was a “wind-shield survey” done in the early 1990’s.


A request from one Supervisor, two weeks later revealed that a far more detailed study was accomplished. To date, no one has been able to demonstrate that such information has been provided to you for consideration.

In the interest of the economic future of our area and the repeated requests of the citizenry, please address scenic view impacts in your deliberations.