County gets first SEP request for 60-foot, small wind turbine

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Mark and Teresa Hanson want to put up a new windmill so they have some backup power when the electricity goes out, so they’ve petitioned the Botetourt Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors for a special exceptions permit (SEP) so they can mount a windmill and a UHF television antennae on a 60-foot pole at their home on Vista Lane west of Fincastle.

According to the Botetourt Planning and Zoning Office, it’s the first request for an SEP to mount a wind turbine above the heights allowed by the county’s zoning ordinance.

The Hansons already have a 6-foot diameter homemade windmill generator mounted on the roof of their home, according to their SEP application, but the county zoning ordinance requires the SEP for anything higher than 40 feet in an Agriculture A-1 zoned district. Property owners can request a SEP that allows a height up to 60 feet.

Their home is located on a wooded 4.29 acres on Vista Lane off Breckinridge Mill Road at the foot of Caldwell Mountain.

According to the SEP application, the single-pole mount for the small windmill will allow the Hansons to mount a 1,000 watt, 24V low voltage residential windmill that will charge batteries for low voltage lighting in case the power goes out.

Mark Hanson said in a letter to the zoning office that the windmill recommended by James Madison University wind department is 8.2 feet in diameter and will be quieter at high wind speeds than his homemade windmill. It will also have fiberglass blades instead of aluminum so it won’t “flutter TV reception” if a UHF antennae is placed near it.

He said the small windmill may “stick up a bit” above nearby trees.

The planners will hold a public hearing on the Hansons’ request at the commission’s March 8 meeting at 6 p.m. in Fincastle. The supervisors are scheduled to hold a public hearing on the planners’ recommendation at that board’s March 23 meeting at 6 p.m. at Greenfield Education and Training Center.

The supervisors also will resume their hearing to discuss a request for a SEP to put a 195-foot cellular tower on a parcel west of Fincastle on Mary Alice Road that belongs to the late Donald L. Meredith.

The supervisors postponed a decision on the request by Cingular Wireless/AT&T Wireless, which want to lease the site until a geological water study could be done at the site.

Neighbors worried that the tower will have a negative effect on a spring that is used by residents of the area where the tower is to be built.

The planners, when they recommended 4-1 approving the SEP in December, asked for the geological study. It was not available by the time the supervisors met that month.

Cingular Wireless/AT&T Wireless said a tower at this site is an effort to close a “hole” in its cellular service area between Fincastle and Eagle Rock.

The supervisors will continue their deliberations on the request at 6 p.m. March 23.