JPs again reject proposed tower setbacks

Two proposed ordinances that would have established differing setback requirements for industrial towers in Carroll County were voted down at the county quorum court’s regular meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 20.

Meeting at the Eastern District Courthouse in Berryville, the county’s 11 justices of the peace voted 8-3 to reject a proposal by District 7 JP Kellie Matt that would have required setbacks of the greater of 2,500 feet or 3.5 times the height of any tower above 200 feet tall from any non-participating landowner’s property line or any public road. The quorum then voted 6-5 against a similar proposal by District 11 JP John Howerton that would have imposed a setback requirement of 1.14 times the height of a tower above 200 feet tall and twice the height of the tower from any commercial or residentially occupiable structure on a non-participating landowner’s property.

The setback proposals were the latest attempts at regulating Scout Clean Energy’s planned “wind farm” southeast of Green Forest.

Scout, based in Boulder, Colo., plans for the wind turbine project to expand over approximately 9,000 acres — about 14 square miles — in Carroll County, much of it along County Road 905. Scout says the project could generate up to 180 megawatts of electricity at peak demand — enough, the company says, to power almost 30,000 homes. Scout says it has signed lease agreements with more than 50 landowners to place wind turbines on their property. The company estimates that the 30-year project will generate more than $14 million in lease payments and $25 million in tax revenue for the county.

The planned project has drawn vigorous opposition from opponents who say it will be harmful to wildlife, have adverse health effects and pose a potential safety risk for humans and potentially cause significant damage to county roads, along with disturbing the natural beauty of the area and having a negative effect on tourism. Opponents of the project also say Scout’s ownership can be traced to Chinese interests.

JPs have said they can do little to prevent the project from moving forward, with some saying they don’t want to interfere with the rights of individual property owners. The two setback proposals that were voted down at the Feb. 20 meeting were the third and fourth to meet the same fate. JPs rejected a similar proposal sponsored by District 1 JP Jack Deaton by a 6-5 vote in August 2023. Another proposal, also sponsored by Deaton, got five yes votes from the nine JPs in attendance at the quorum court’s Jan. 16 meeting but needed six votes for passage.

More than a dozen people addressed the quorum court during the public comments portion of the Feb. 20 meeting, all but one speaking for or against the Nimbus project.

During discussion of Matt’s proposed ordinance, District 6 JP Craig Hicks said he was disappointed in the quorum court for revisiting the issue of setbacks after previous proposals on the topic were voted down.

“It just keeps on being rewrapped, every month,” Hicks said. “And it has failed three or four times. So I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed in our quorum court for that. Is that the way we’re going to operate from now on? If we don’t get what we want, we’ll just rewrap it next month.”

“In response to that, yes, we’ve voted on it over and over again,” Matt replied. “But it’s important. And maybe we’ve never done anything like this before in how many years, but this has not come up before either. And there’s going to be other things in the future. … This is big. I mean, this is not just a little ordinance.”

District 2 JP Bruce Wright and District 3 JP Harrie Farrow joined in Matt in voting for her proposal. Voting against were Deaton, Hicks, Howerton, District 4 JP Hunter Rivett, District 5 JP Matt Phillips, District 8 JP Francisco Pedraza, District 9 JP Roger Hall and District 10 JP Jerry King.

Deaton, Wright, Farrow, King and Howerton voted in favor of Howard’s proposed ordinance, with Rivett, Phillips, Hicks, Matt, Pedraza and Hall voting no.

The next meeting of the Carroll County Quorum Court is scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 19.