Johnson County passes amendment to ridge law to allow construction of wind mill farm

From Staff Reports

   MOUNTAIN CITY -- Despite opposition from some area residents that included an advertising campaign, companies looking for a new site to build a windmill farm in Tennessee can consider locating the farm on Stone Mountain, in the northeast corner of the state.
   Residents of Johnson County and their neighbors in North Carolina no longer have a local law to back up their opposition to locating the wind farms on the mountain.
   Johnson County commissioners voted without dissent Thursday to approve an amendment to the county's ridge protection law that will allow the construction of power-generating wind turbines above 3,000 feet on the mountain near the North Carolina and Virginia borders.
   Last year, the Tennessee Valley Authority attempted to build a wind farm in order to generate electricity on Stone Mountain, but some residents opposed the project, claiming the windmill farm would destroy the area's natural beauty and violate the North Carolina Mountain Ridge Protection Act.
   After that attempt, questions were raised about Johnson County's own ridge law. Officials from Johnson County had a private act passed by the State General Assembly earlier this year to clarify the language about power-generating structures.
   According to a statement from the TVA released on Friday, it has no current plans to pursue building a wind farm on Stone Mountain.
   Private companies have inquired about building wind turbines on the mountain, but no offer has been made at this time.
   Some residents, including ones from North Carolina, attended the Thursday night commissioner's meeting and spoke out against the measure.
   A North Carolina resident named DeNeece Butler, who heads a group calling itself "Citizens for Johnson County," told commissioners she believes the windmills will destroy the county's growing home construction industry.
   Johnson County resident Michael Tavalario urged commissioners not to listen to negative comments from North Carolina residents, saying it was an issue for Johnson County alone. "We are suffering here," he said. "We need to grow and expand."