County Exploring Rules To Manage Rural Wind Turbines

SNOW HILL – Despite the
national and global focus on energy sources and costs, Worcester County
might not pursue an ordinance allowing small wind turbines in rural areas until
at least next year.

“We’re not reinventing
the wheel here,” said Commission President Virgil Shockley, a strong supporter
of rural wind turbines.

Another proponent,
Commissioner Linda Busick, would like to see something on the books soon
addressing the alternative power sources.

“We need a code to deal with it
so people can install these things appropriately,” said Busick. “If we wait on
it, it’s going to be a long time. These are things we need to do now.”

Commissioner Bobby Cowger felt
there was no rush to draft an ordinance, saying it could wait until the
comprehensive rezoning is complete. Wind power guidelines could be started in
the winter and then be finished sometime next summer.

“It certainly ought to be
addressed,” said Cowger.  “We’ve had
nobody come in and ask for permits to put ‘em up. There’s not a mad rush to get
that done.”

Wind turbines would likely only
be allowed in agriculturally-zoned property, eliminating concerns that the
turbines could impact nearby properties and cause problems between neighbors.

“A-l (agricultural zoning) is
where the loans are,” Shockley said.

“The county certainly needs to
look at some guidelines so people can apply for the grant funding,” Busick

Shockley said he is pushing the
idea of rural wind energy in part because of federal and state grants and loan
money that is available through the end of 2008.

That funding might not be
renewed in 2009, Shockley warned, given the downturn in the economy.

The Farm Bill of 2006 provides
for $15.8 million in wind power and alternative energy grants and $205 million
guaranteed low interest loans for rural property, including homes, agriculture
operations and small business.

“The money’s there. The money’s
out there,” Shockley said.

Any wind turbine ordinance would
apply only to the county and not the towns, according to Shockley.

“We’re not going out into the
water. We’ll leave that fight to somebody else,” Shockley said during Tuesday’s

Shockley said he has already had
people asking him about the legality of wind turbines in Worcester County.

Windmills are allowed under
current county code, but wind turbines are not mentioned. Use or structures not
mentioned in the code are prohibited.

However, Shockley said he is
concerned that people will still put them in, leaving Worcester County
in a legal quandary. There are no fines or sanctions associated with an illegal
wind turbine in the code, which could make controlling unsanctioned wind
turbines difficult.

“People are just going to put
them up,” Shockley said.

Cowger said the county is
already home to a couple wind turbines.

“I know where two of them are
sitting right as we speak,” Cowger said.

Development Review and
Permitting Director Ed Tudor, who has been rewriting the zoning code to conform
with the March 2006 Comprehensive Plan, said he would get back to the
commissioners with a section on wind power. Tudor reported Tuesday that the
rewritten code is almost complete.

“It’s our intent to have a
comprehensive section on wind,” Tudor said.

“There’s another way to do it,
some kind of separate legislation for it,” Busick said.

Putting wind turbines in the
zoning code should be enough, Cowger said.