City council to discuss possible wind turbine ordinance — again

Published 7:33 am Wednesday, January 13, 2010

City council will soon be taking another look at a potential wind turbine ordinance, an issue that has become a controversial subject in Austin.

On Tuesday, the city planning commission voted 4-2 to recommend a reconfigured draft ordinance after council tabled a previous version in November. Council is expected to act on the recommendation Tuesday.

The biggest change between the new version of the proposal and earlier drafts is a stipulation that would allow turbine construction in residential neighborhoods. Previously, the ordinance would only have allowed the structures in commercial and industrial districts.

Planning board commissioner Jim Mino said he couldn’t support allowing turbines to be built in residential areas, even if that seemed to be restrictive of individual rights.

Mino said noise and shadow concerns ultimately made up his mind.

“Personally, I can’t vote for the ordinance as is,” he said Tuesday night.

Others simply don’t want to see the structures in the city, whether they’re allowed in residential areas or not.

Some residents of Oak Park Village have been especially vocal in their feelings against a potential ordinance. That’s because they live near Super Fresh Produce, where co-owner Jim Stiles wants to put a turbine up on his non-residential property.

Brian Beckstrand, who lives at one of the nearby condominiums, said he didn’t think most people would want such a structure in “their backyard.”

“I believe a wind tower on Jim’s property would ruin the value of our property and the aesthetics of it,” he said.

Bob Clark, who is also a resident of Oak Park Village, said he is frustrated with protesting the potential ordinance.

“This looks like it’s going to go (forward) regardless of what we think,” he said. “There are people out there upset.”

However, supporters have pointed toward the benefits a cleaner energy source could provide for the community. In fact, several people have said Austin could become an area leader in “green” energy if they passed the ordinance.

Planning commissioner Kathy Stutzman, who voted for the ordinance Tuesday, was also quick to point out that the law would still be plenty restrictive when it came to allowing wind turbines in residential neighborhoods. That’s because anyone who would want a tower would have to file for a conditional-use permit, which require individual hearings.

“This isn’t just saying everybody can start building wind turbines in their backyards,” she said. “We have to look at it each time it goes through.”