Wind turbine ordinance falls short of unanimous vote needed

Published 7:04 am Wednesday, January 20, 2010

An ordinance that would permit wind turbines to be built throughout Austin is almost to the finish line, though it has one more hurdle to pass.

The proposed law, which has been discussed and debated locally for the last several months, actually passed city council by a 5-2 vote Tuesday. However, because the revised ordinance was being presented to council for the first time, it needed a unanimous vote to pass, per the city’s charter.

The ordinance will now come before council again at their next meeting, which is set for Feb. 1. If it gets the same vote as Tuesday — or even one less “aye” — it will pass by majority decision and become law.

As it stands now, the proposed ordinance would conditionally allow wind turbines to be built in almost any city zoning district, including residential areas. Previous drafts would have only allowed the towers in business and commercial districts.

That change was approved by the city planning commission at a meeting last night, despite more protests from some concerned residents.

An elderly group from the Oak Park Village development has been against the idea since the beginning, citing concerns that Jim Stiles, owner of neighboring Super Fresh Produce, would put up a tower near their property.

On Tuesday, councilman Jeff Austin said it’s important to remember that despite these concerns, the ordinance is not about just one situation. He said the city needs to look at the long-term benefits of the clean energy source.

“We have to be as open and forward thinking as we can on this,” he said.

However, councilman Brian McAlister said the city should be prepared for countless battles like the one coming from Oak Park residents if the ordinance passes. McAlister, who voted against the ordinance, said just the threat of the ordinance was enough to stir things up this time around.

“And that’ll happen again,” he said.