Council to revisit proposed wind turbine ordinance

Published 6:22 am Monday, December 7, 2009

Having been tabled during a council meeting last month, a proposed ordinance that would allow wind turbines in industrial and commercial districts — but not in residential neighborhoods — is set for more discussion Monday.

City council will meet with the city planning commission to begin working kinks out of the draft law, which would allow turbines in certain zones, given that the builders meet specific regulations regarding height, rotor width and distance from other structures.

However, at the Nov. 16 council meeting, a couple of people spoke out against a different stipulation that the planning commission had added in by amendment.

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The commission had decided Nov. 10 to add a stipulation that towers will have to be at least 350 feet away from any residential district, in addition to not being in the neighborhoods themselves.

Two members of the commission that voted “nay” to the ordinance on Nov. 10 — Kathy Stutzman and Lynn Spainhower — said at the Nov. 16 council meeting that the 350-foot number was arbitrarily added in at the last minute.

Both Stutzman and Spainhower said more research should be done before adopting that regulation.

They also said the ordinance is all-around too restrictive, limiting places like schools in residential areas that may want to build towers someday.

Jim Stiles, co-owner of Super Fresh Produce in Austin, wants to put a turbine on his property and also said he is opposed to the 350-foot stipulation.

However, for Stiles it is simply a practical matter — if he had to build at least 350 feet away from the nearest home, he wouldn’t be able to build at all, he said.

Currently, Stiles can’t build because a moratorium is in place on turbine construction in Austin while details of a possible law are worked out. That moratorium could be extended another 60 days in a separate council action Monday night.

There were also some people opposed to wind turbines all together who voiced their opinion at the last council meeting, including Pat Reinartz.

The Austin resident, who said Super Fresh Produce is in her “backyard,” is against all parts of the proposed ordinance because she is worried about noise, aesthetics and a decreased property value.

“I’m totally against it,” she said outside the council chambers. “Even if it’s 350 feet (away).”