Highlanders For Responsible Development End of Year News

In their year-end newsletter, Highlanders for Responsible Development reported on Board and officer positions for the upcoming year, as well as recent activity.

At the annual meeting on December 14,the Board  re-elected Norm Bell, Rich Holman and Rick Webb to new 3-year terms. Continuing as Directors are Sarah Collins-Simmons, Lew Freeman, Linda Holman, Rick Lambert, Winifred Stephenson, Lee Taplinger and John Vance. Oofficers for 2017 are: Lew Freeman, President; Norm Bell, Vice President; Winifred Stephenson, Secretary; and Linda Holman, Treasurer

HRD recently voiced its support for Highland County adopting a policy that preserves the dark skies that characterize the Allegheny Highlands. In advance of the Highland County Planning Commission’s December 15 meeting, HRD endorsed a “dark skies” feature to the county’s zoning ordinance and stated that it “believes that Highland County should maximize and promote our county’s distinctive natural assets that make it attractive for tourism and new residents, and therefore provide economic benefit for all.”

In a related note, on December 22nd, The Highland County Board of Supervisors released details of its request that the Planning Commission revise the 18-year-old zoning ordinance for the county. The revision is to include “a new section on exterior lighting standards to promote preserving ‘dark skies.’”

It is estimated that 80% of Americans live in places where they cannot even see the Milky Way. The International Dark Sky Association has certified 37 communities around the world where light pollution is minimized and seeing “dark skies” is indeed possible, but none are in the eastern United States. HRD feels that Highland would be an excellent candidate for the distinction.

HRD also continues to monitor the progress of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to issue a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) soon. FERC had announced that it intended to issue the DEIS in December.

An environmental impact review for a project like the ACP is required by the National Environmental Policy Act to assess whether a proposed project would “significantly affect the quality of the human environment.” The Highland County Board of Supervisors, Town of Monterey and Highlanders for Responsible Development are among those who have submitted comments to FERC expressing concerns and raising questions about the proposed ACP route and its impact on the environment.

Whenever the DEIS is released there will be a minimum 45-day public comment period, though requests have been made for a 90-day period to be provided, as it was for the recent DEIS issued in late September for the Mountain Valley Pipeline in West Virginia and southwest Virginia. A special public briefing on the ACP Draft Environmental Impact Statement will be held locally once the document is released. This will be jointly sponsored by HRD and Voices from Bath, the community group in Bath County that is leading the opposition in that county against the ACP. Stay tuned for specifics on date, time and place..

HRD has also joined 12 other organization in urging the FERC to reject the proposal for the ACP to violate 13 environmental easements, most of which exist in Highland and Bath Counties. The comments were filed December 13 on behalf of the organizations by the Southern Environmental Law Center of Charlottesville.

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

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