Council could tweak turbine measure

Published 8:23 am Monday, May 17, 2010

It’s back to the drawing board for a proposed ordinance that would allow wind turbine construction throughout Austin.

Sort of.

On Monday evening, the Austin City Council will discuss the issue at its work session, since the proposed law failed to pass council two weeks earlier. However, the ordinance came very close — the vote was a 3-3 tie, with one councilman absent from the meeting — and it appears as if only moderate tinkering needs to be done for the law to pass.

That could mean that council moves toward prohibiting tower construction in residential areas. As it stands now, the ordinance would permit turbines in all city zones — with conditions, including restrictions on blade size, height and noise — but Mayor Tom Stiehm acknowledged that more council members might be on board if neighborhoods were barred.

Councilman Brian McAlister for one voted against the ordinance on May 3, in large part due to concerns he has about allowing the structures in residential areas.

“I think allowing them in residential areas is a bad idea,” he said during that meeting. “You can be quite sure if one does pop up, (council) is going to hear about it.”

Council members Steve King and Marian Clennon also voiced concern about allowing wind turbines in neighborhoods and both voted against the ordinance.

The proposal has been in the works for almost a year, with many modifications, debates and heated discussions occurring in that time. Also in that same time, the city has enacted several moratoriums on wind turbine construction.

Following discussion Monday, the proposed ordinance is likely headed back to council for a vote during its next regular meeting, which will be on June 7.

Monday’s council meeting is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.