Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

February 1, 2014

Dominion Energy representative to share ridgeline plans at next Tazewell board meeting

BLUEFIELD, Va. — A new developer has expressed an interest in 2,600 acres of land along East River Mountain currently owned by Dominion Energy, officials said Friday.

As a result of this new proposal, the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors are asking representatives of Dominion to appear before the board next week to provide an update on whether or not the company intends to proceed with a controversial wind turbine project along the scenic ridgeline.

Dominion purchased the property in 2009, and proposed the development of a large-scale wind turbine project along the ridgelines of East River Mountain. There was widespread opposition to the project in the county’s Eastern District, and the supervisors ultimately voted 3-2 to pass a ridgeline protection ordinance in 2010 restricting the development of tall structures along certain protected ridgelines, including East River Mountain. However, Dominion has yet to sell or relinquish its ownership of the property, according to board Chairman Charlie Stacy.

“We have reached out to them and asked them to provide us with an update on where that project stands,” Stacy said of the proposed wind turbine farm. “There have been several other developers interested in developing that tract of land. But they (Dominion) still own that 2,600 acres. Our question for them is where are they on their project. I’m probably the most scared as to what their answer is going to be. But several members of the board wanted them to come down and give us an update.”

Stacy said Dominion has indicated that a company representative will attend Tuesday’s meeting. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. But the board is then scheduled to adjourn into a closed-door executive session until 7:20 p.m., which is when the regular public session is scheduled to begin.

David Botkins, a spokesman for Dominion Virginia Power, also confirmed Friday that a company representative would address the board Tuesday.

“Emmett Toms, one of our local government affairs managers, will be coming out to provide the board with an update,” Botkins said. “He is just going to come out and give the board an update on our activity.”

Stacy said several other developers are now interested in the East River Mountain property.

“I have specifically spoken with one developer — and I don’t have his permission to disclose his idea — but I know the developer has expressed an interest,” Stacy said of the proposed non-wind turbine project for East River Mountain.

However, Stacy said nothing can happen on East River Mountain while Dominion still owns the property.

“It’s still a very unsettling issue up here,” Stacy said of the greater Bluefield, Va., area. “People want to know if that threat (of wind turbines on East River Mountain) still exists, or if it has gone away. My position is as long as Dominion Energy owns that property, we will have to remain suspicious that they are going to use it for the purpose that they bought it for.”

Stacy said he intends to introduce an ordinance later this year that would establish zoning for the Eastern District of Tazewell County.

“It is not a zoning ordinance for all of Tazewell County, but we have an option to zone by district,” Stacy said. “I have asked to do that as a further means of protecting against this project.”

Stacy said Dominion has yet to request an appeal or appearance before the appeals board that is overseeing the ridgeline protection ordinance, also known as the tall structure ordinance.

— Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline.com

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