Wind turbine subject blows into council chambers again

Published 2:22 pm Saturday, June 5, 2010

An ordinance that would allow wind-energy conversion systems in Austin city limits could pass City Council Monday.

Of course, that’s been said time and time again.

What has been one of the most discussed and debated issues locally in recent memory — with meetings dating back to last July and a number of revisions coming since then — could be resolved if council votes to unanimously support the measure.

Email newsletter signup

The latest draft ordinance would allow wind turbines in all city areas, except for residential zones. The exception to that would be school zones, which would be permitted to have the structures. All turbines would be subject to conditional approval from the city’s planning commission and would have to meet a list of conditions. These would include restrictions on height, blade size and noise produced, as well as stipulations about how far they’d have to be from property lines.

Council finds themselves looking at this particular version of the law because the last draft brought forward — which would have allowed the structures in all city zones — failed at a meeting in early May by a 3-3 vote.

At that time, the three dissenting votes — council members Brian McAlister, Steve King and Marian Clennon — voiced concerns about allowing wind turbines in neighborhoods.

McAlister in particular said residents he had spoken with were largely against the measure.

“I think allowing them in residential areas is a bad idea,” McAlister said at the May 3 meeting. “You can be quite sure if one does pop up, (council) is going to hear about it.”

In mid-May, council convened at a work session and generally agreed that allowing them in school zones, but not neighborhoods, was a good compromise that could be more agreeable to everyone involved.

If the measure doesn’t get unanimous support Monday, it could pass at the next council meeting in two weeks, assuming the draft ordinance isn’t revised during that time. Per the city’s charter, an ordinance getting its “second reading” only requires a majority vote to pass.

Council is scheduled to meet at 5:30 p.m. in their chambers, located at 500 Fourth Ave. NE.