News & Articles

Zoning: Message received

Posted on Oct 11, 2017

Charles Boothe | Bluefield Daily Telegraph | Feb 18, 2016

TAZEWELL, Va. — A crowd of Tazewell County residents sent a clear message to the board of supervisors Tuesday night at a public hearing on a proposed zoning ordinance, and it’s a message two key supervisors say they are heeding.

“There is no appetite for doing any zoning,” supervisors Chairman Mike Hymes said Wednesday. “The two people who made the motion to scrap the zoning plan were both from the Southern District, my district. My constituents are strongly against zoning and therefore I am too.”

Eastern District Supervisor Charlie Stacy, who is also a member of the planning commission and supported the ordinance, agreed that residents do not want any zoning.

“I am not feeling comfortable at this point to ask the board to go against what was large scale opposition,” he said. “We have the ability to do that (direct the planning commission to develop another zoning ordinance) but you have to recognize the volume of voices from citizens.”

About 600 residents jammed Nuckolls Hall at the Tazewell County Fair-grounds for the public hearing on a proposed zoning ordinance for the Eastern District that was created by the county’s planning commission.

The hearing was held as a joint meeting between the commission and the board of supervisors, which could have taken action on the ordinance if the commission had recommended it.

But the commission voted 3-2 to not recommend the ordinance to the board, thereby killing it.

The proposed ordinance was a list of prohibited entities, which included wind turbine farms, large-scale energy projects, nuclear facilties, medical waste facilities, methadone clinics, strip clubs, large canneries and any business or industry that would create odorous emissions.

Stacy said his support of the ordinance is directly related to economic development and zoning can provide a layer of protection for planned growth as well as offer a more enticing enviroment for new business and industry.

He, along with commission Chair Ann Robinson, voted to recommend the ordinance to the board. Charlie Hart, Robert Moss and Jason Herndon voted not to recommend.

“We’re having a hard time recruiting industries to bring good jobs,” he said, explaining that zoning can protect an industry from what could be developed on property around them, from certain types of industries that could hurt property values to residential developments.

“One of the benefits of zoning is that it gives you an ability to predict what could come in,” he said, adding that he believes a lack of zoning has impeded the development of the Bluestone Regional Business and Technology Park.

But Hymes said that, in his experience, zoning has not been an issue for potential business and industries considering locating in the county.

“I have never heard it discussed either way (whether zoning is in place) in any detail with any prospects we have had here,” he said.

Stacy may support some limited zoning, but he said he also recognizes the reality of the situation.

“The overall zoning (rather than just for a wind turbine facility) was the primary concern at the hearing,” he said. “People are concerned that the government will tell them what they can do or not do with their property.”

The majority of people at the hearing, who were from around the county, not just the Eastern District, were not in favor of this ordinance, he said.

The opposition, he said, was organized by the Farm Bureau, which has said the county has a “tall-structure ordinance” that would prevent a wind turbine farm from being developed.

Stacy said the height restriction on a structure is 40 feet, which would “take care of the turbine issue” because those structures are far higher.

However, that local ordinance may not be a permanent roadblock to the development of wind farms, he said.

“The state or federal government may say we can’t pass an ordinance that is anti-renewable energy,” Stacy said, and the tall-structure ordinance would fall into that category.

The proposed ordinance, he said, would have added a stronger layer of protection.

Eric Young, the attorney for Tazewell County, said the planning commission has been working on a zoning odinance for many years, at least since 2002, when a zoning ordinance draft was created.

Young said he came to the county 12 years ago and has worked on an ordinance “for a long time,” but it was not pushed until 2012, when Stacy was appointed to the commission and a committee was formed to finish the task.

“After that, we put a lot of resoures and effort into it,” he said.

Those efforts culminated in two public meetings on the issue in 2015, leading to the ordinance being reommended to the full commission in November. After that, another public meeting was held in December at the Bluefield (Va.) Town Hall.

Supervisors voted in January to set Tuesday night’s public hearing.

Young said that during those public meetings, residents were divided on the issue, but evenly.

That’s why, he said, the ordinance proceded.

Young said the board did not direct the commission to develop the ordinance, but could do so in the future if supervisors agree.

If that ever happens, the commission must produce the ordinance within 100 days. If they fail to do so, the board can then create the ordinance without going through the commission, he said.

But according to both Stacy and Hymes, county residents do not want zoning, and neither has any plans to bring up the issue.

Both also agreed that one of the bright spots of the public hearing was the attendance, which forced county officials to move the meeting from the supervisors’ meeting room in Tazewell to the fairgrounds.

“We had an excellent turnout of about 600 citizens,” said Stacy. “That’s the largest attendance at a meeting we have had since I have been a member of the board.”

 

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

Article originally posted at http://www.bdtonline.com/news/zoning-message-received/

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Open house informs public on hydroelectric pump station

Posted on Oct 6, 2017

BLAKE STOWERS | Bluefield Daily Telegraph | Oct 6, 2017

Dominion Energy representative Blaine Garrett informs Eddy White about where the proposed Dominion Energy Pumped Hydroelectric Storage Power Station is considering being built at in Tazewell County. The energy company held a public meeting Thursday night at Tazewell High School where the community had the chance to get more information about the project.

TAZEWELL, Va. — Residents and landowners who filled Tazewell High School on Thursday night to learn more about a $2 billion hydroelectric pump station proposed by Dominion Energy were calling it an “opportunity” for the community.

Jack Thompson from Tazewell, Va. said the hydroelectric pump station is a “very viable project” for Tazewell County.

“We can sustain our future for the kids and the families for this area,” Thompson said. “We need to pull in and bring new business to the area. It will bring good, permanent jobs to the area.”

 Travis Absher from Tazewell, Va. said he likes the proposed project. “I think (the project) will really help us,” Absher said. “I’m for it.”

Tom Bowman from Cedar Bluff, Va. attended the open house on Thursday as well.

“We’re really excited about this for Tazewell County,” Bowman said. “We think it’s a great opportunity with a good company that’s demonstrated what they can do in Wise County with that big powerplant. We’re hoping that this thing can be pulled off and create a lot of opportunities not just this opportunity, but maybe get some other things going on for the county. We’re very supportive.”

Southern District Supervisor Mike Hymes said he encouraged residents to attend Thursday’s meeting.

“This project will allow Dominion to use the property they own in a positive productive manner and bring high paying construction jobs to our area and longer term jobs operating the facility,” said Hymes. “I will work diligently to convince Dominion energy to locate this project in Tazewell County.”

Eddie White from Tazewell, Va. said he supports the project.

“My land will be bordering the project,” White said. “I’m all for it. I hope it will be a great thing for Tazewell County. I hope it gets done.”

A 4,100 acre site on East River Mountain in Tazewell County is one of two locations being considered for the hydroelectric storage facility. The second proposed site is an abandoned mine in Wise County.

According to the company, Dominion already owns 2,600 acres on the Tazewell County site.

“The preliminary estimate for a single facility could be in the range of $2 billion and provide millions in tax revenue to counties in the coalfield region,” Dominion said in an earlier report. “The project would also create hundreds of jobs during construction and up to 50 permanent jobs when complete.”

Hydroelectric pump storage facilities act as large batteries that store energy in the form of water. During off-peak energy hours, when demand is lower, less expensive energy is used to pump water from a reservoir at a lower altitude up to a reservoir at a higher altitude. The water is stored in the upper reservoir until an on-peak period, or period of high demand. At that point, the water is allowed to flow downhill to a power generation facility where it spins turbines. The turbines activate generators that produce electric power that is then delivered to the electric grid.

Legislation passed during an early summer session of the Virginia General Assembly authorized electric utilities such as Dominion to apply to the Virginia State Corporation Commission for permission to construct pump hydroelectric storage facilities in the coalfield region of Southwest Virginia. The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Ben Chafin, R-Russell, Delegate Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, and Delegate Todd Pillion, R-Washington.

Dominion Energy currently operates an existing pump hydroelectric storage station in Bath County, Va. That facility has the ability to provide electricity to 750,000 homes.

Several counties in the region have agreed to support Dominion Energy in the project across the coalfields of southwest Virginia. The hydroelectric storage power station will cost more than $1.8 billion to build, and would provide millions of dollars in new tax revenue for the locality that is ultimately selected for the development.

Dominion Energy Spokesman Dan Genest said Thursday night was an open house for the community.

“We’re giving the public a chance to come in and learn about what we’re proposing to do, what we hope to do somewhere in the coalfields of Virginia,” Genest said. “We’re looking at two different sites: one in Tazewell, one in Wise County. We’re doing intensive studies to see if it is actually feasible to build that kind of a power generation facility. People have been very welcoming. We hope we can answer all their questions.”

— Contact Blake Stowers at bstowers@bdtonline.com

 

Article originally posted online @ http://www.bdtonline.com/news/open-house-informs-public-on-hydroelectric-pump-station/article_2ff3d4a0-aa42-11e7-bc04-6b6a3de03693.html

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Resolution supports $1.8B hydroelectric pump storage system project

Posted on Aug 10, 2017

BLAKE STOWERS | Bluefield Daily Telegraph

 

TAZEWELL, Va. — Tazewell County officials have passed a resolution of support for the creation of one or more hydroelectric pump storage systems in Southwest Virginia.

Senator Ben Chafin, R-Russell, helped to write the bill in support of the hydroelectric pump storage systems.

Chafin spoke to the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors alongside Dan Poteet with Dominion Energy on Tuesday night.

“It’s great to be here before you tonight,” Chafin said. “I’m here to talk to you a little bit about the pump storage project and reacquaint you with that project. And to seek your approval on this project. It’s an exciting project for all the coalfield counties. As you know, Delegate Kilgore and I, each carried the bill that passed the General Assembly this last session. We found it in the public interest to allow the creation of one or more pump storage, hydroelectric facilities in coalfield counties in Southwest Virginia. We have a utility that is actively exploring locations for this type of facility in Southwest Virginia. So, we are quite excited that this is going to come to fruition.”

Several counties in the region have agreed to support Dominion Energy in the project across the coalfields of southwest Virginia. The company is currently looking at a number of sites in the coalfield counties for the project, which would create hundreds of jobs during the multi-year construction phase, and approximately 50 permanent positions. The hydroelectric storage power station will cost more than $1.8 billion to build, and would provide millions of dollars in new tax revenue for the locality that is ultimately selected for the development.

Chafin said the new projects will bring a lot of revenue to Southwest Virginia.

“It will bring a lot of investment to Southwest Virginia,” Chafin said. “It will allow investment to our coalfield counties in a way that we have not seen in quite some time. And it will allow our coalfield counties to share this revenue. That’s what we’re here seeking tonight, is your favor, your blessing on the project. We’d like you to embrace the project and say that it is good project and would be welcome in the coalfield counties.”

Chafin also asked the board to bless the concept of revenue sharing.

“I have gone to counties, all the time, I hear the same stories,” Chafin said. “The counties say we never get this. We don’t get any benefit out of it. I know that the Virginia City Plant that is in St. Paul and Wise County. It’s like a city. It’s a wonderful thing. But, it’s sitting just a few hundred yards from the county line with Russel County, but all the revenue goes to Wise County and the town of St. Paul. We came up, the legislators, came up with the idea that we want this to be a revenue share. We don’t think it would be happening without the efforts of the General Assembly, running forward, making it more streamlined, getting it through the legislative process.”

Chafin said he hopes this is the beginning of one of many projects where counties can be a part of the revenue sharing. “We hope that everybody can help get a piece of the action and everybody be a winner,” Chafin said. “The investment that will be made to build this facility and whatever county is chosen will be a significant investment. And will help some of the losses that were sustained over the last eight or nine years, in the down tick of the coal industry.”

According to Chafin, approximately 1,500 or 2,000 new jobs will be brought to the area during the construction phase of the project.

Eastern District Board of Supervisor Charlie Stacy asked if a renewable source was a part of this particular project during the presentation. “The way I understood it, it has to be a renewable source, so one way or the other, whoever gets picked is getting wind or solar. Is that going to be in close proximity to the facility? Where does the renewable have to go?”

Chafin said the renewable source can run in a different county. “It has to be in the coalfield counties,” Chafin said. “The renewable component of this can be in a different county, but the beauty of it is, from our standpoint is when we drafted the legislation we were careful and encouraged to include the idea that there might be more than one of these (facilities). We might be able to get more than one of these down the road. This particular facility acts as a giant battery.”

According to earlier reports by the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, hydroelectric pump storage facilities act as large batteries that store energy in the form of water. During off-peak energy hours, when demand is lower, less expensive energy is used to pump water from a reservoir at a lower altitude up to a reservoir at a higher altitude. The water is stored in the upper reservoir until an on-peak period, or period of high demand. At that point, the water is allowed to flow downhill to a power generation facility where it spins turbines. The turbines activate generators that produce electric power that is then delivered to the electric grid.

Poteet said within this region, the Regional Transmission Organization basically governs Dominion Power. “Within that group is PJM, PJM represents 13 states,” Poteet said. “Within PJM they have different regions or service territories. For the past several years, the Dominion zone has been the largest growing in need of electricity in the United States.”

Southern District Supervisor Mike Hymes said the presentation regarding the hydroelectric pump storage was very interesting.

“I am hopeful our county will be selected for one of these projects,” Hymes said. “I am still concerned about this technology being a competitor for coal and gas fired power generation, but I hope the electric demand will increase so this technology will be needed. As I said to the Dominion representatives last night, our county has several county owned areas that we could use as sites for solar energy installations.”

Chafin said officials were able to get this bill out without opposition. “So, I believe that if there had been some thoughts that some how it was not good for coal those would have surfaced, Chafin said. “Also, as David said, it’s going to take a lot of coal to produce the energy to pump that water up there (within the facility) too.”

Dominion Energy is one of the nation’s largest producers and transporters of energy, with a portfolio of approximately 26,200 megawatts of generation, 15,000 miles of natural gas transmission, gathering and storage pipeline, and 6,600 miles of electric transmission lines.

— Contact Blake Stowers at bstowers@bdtonline.com

 

Article originally posted online @ http://www.bdtonline.com/news/resolution-supports-b-hydroelectric-pump-storage-system-project/article_3bd99dd2-7d69-11e7-bebe-77e762edd3df.html

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Tazewell County pushing for Sunset agreement

Posted on Jul 2, 2017

JIM TALBERT | 

A decision on whether or not its vote is reversed could come from the Virginia Coalfield Coalition next week.

Seth White, who serves as chairman of the coalition said the 16 member board was looking at either July 11 or 12 as dates for a called meeting.  Board members Ronnie Shortt, Joe Fawbush and Richard Leonard had asked for the called meeting to reconsider the group’s vote to impose restrictions on Sunset Digital’s purchase of Optinet.

The coalition is a non-profit group that was created to oversee a 38 tower 4G network in seven counties in southwest Virginia. The group voted 8-3 with five members absent to approve the deal that has Sunset purchasing Optinet from Bristol Utility for $50 million.

The coalition has asked to transfer the 4G cell tower network to Scott County Telephone Cooperative. They also asked for $250,000 from Sunset to allow Scott County Telephone Cooperative to purchase the equipment to operate the network.

Sunset has said shifting the 4G to Scott County Telephone Cooperative is unacceptable and providing the company six strands of unlit fiber is impossible. White told David McGee of the Bristol Herald Courier that what the coalition is asking is fair.

He said Sunset has not tried to negotiate with the coalfield group. During its June 28 meeting, the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors approved Mike Hymes’ motion to ask the county’s representatives on the VCC, White and John Absher to do what they could to move the deal forward.

Hymes’ motion, which was seconded by Charles Stacy stated the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors hereby authorizes and directs the County Administrator and the County Attorney to draft a letter to our representatives on the CPPD and particularly those who work on VCC to work diligently to move the Sunset – Opti-Net project deal forward and not be an impediment to it.’

Hymes said  Tazewell County really needs strong 4-G Broadband in Southwest Virginia and he does not want to lose the opportunity. While White and Absher are the county’s representatives on the VCC, both also serve as does Stacy on the 32 member Cumberland Plateau Board.

Published by SWVA Today – http://www.swvatoday.com/news/richlands_clinch_valley/article_b7ef2c9a-5dbe-11e7-acf9-f7d54737e070.html

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Hymes Announces Re-Election Campaign

Posted on Jun 23, 2017

I am excited to officially announce my candidacy for re-election to represent the residents of Tazewell county once again on the  Board of Supervisors.  It has been my honor to serve the citizens of the Southern District of Tazewell County for more than a decade.  During this time, I have worked diligently to move our county forward despite the difficult economic times plaguing our region.  My focus has always been on growing our county’s economy, while carefully managing the taxpayer’s money. 

We have lowered the property tax rate three times, reduced the merchant’s capital tax on local businesses, and created a website allowing citizens to see firsthand how their tax dollars are spent. This has been accomplished while increasing our funding for education and public safety.

I am especially proud of the small business growth within our county.  The number of entrepreneurs working to establish businesses in our county has increased.  In the coming year, I will work to establish a small business roundtable for the purpose of learning how county government can best meet the needs of small businesses in our county.  It is critical to our local economy that we grow and market strong sustainable small businesses that attract interest from both local residents and travelers throughout the region.

lowered the property tax rate three times, reduced the merchant’s capital tax on local businesses, and created a website allowing citizens to see firsthand how their tax dollars are spent. This has been accomplished while increasing our funding for education and public safety.

Tazewell County should embrace our creative entrepreneurs and give them the support needed to be successful.  I pledge to continue to be a strong advocate for diversifying our economy by marketing local tourism, nurturing our small business, and providing a business friendly environment for economic growth in our county.  By providing a low tax rate, a world class education system with strong workforce training options, superior healthcare options, and a robust network of broadband, we can attract the jobs needed to keep our children home.

I want to continue serving the residents of Tazewell county and finish several projects –

  • Increase the county’s focus on increasing broadband access for our unserved, and underserved areas. 
  • Budget funding for increased residential access to our natural gas resources. It is not fair that we are shipping gas to other states while our local residents are denied access.
  • Follow up on the Virginia Tech radon study, and fund additional studies’ on our local healthcare issues.
  • Increase funding for Education and educators.
  • Grow and diversify our job base so that our children can return to live and work in Tazewell County.
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