“We want to take a middle-of-the-road approach,” Robert Olesen, R-4th Ward, said. “We’re not outlawing them. We just want to make sure they’re safe and put up in the right place. We know there are those who want them and those who are not really crazy about a neighbor having one in the backyard.”
Olesen chairs City Council’s Buildings and Lands Committee, which will meet at 2 p.m. Wednesday to craft a wind turbine ordinance to be presented to Council.
The city imposed a 90-day moratorium on wind turbines in June to allow time for some type of regulatory ordinance to be created. That action came after city officials discovered there was no local law addressing wind turbines after an Emerald Street homeowner erected a 53-foot turbine behind his house. The turbine was met by the expected mix of those who thought it was innovative and forward-thinking, and those who didn’t like the tower being in their view.
“That one was perfectly legal under our current zoning laws,” Olesen said.
Homeowner Ron Engleman, who paid more than $35,000 for his 35-foot turbine, which has 17-foot blades, said he hopes to realize substantial energy cost savings.
Olesen said further study by the committee concluded the city is not situated in an area that generates consistent winds.
“If you put one up along the lake, you’d obviously get more wind,” Olesen said. “The questions anyone should first ask are whether it will pay for itself, and what is the payoff period?”
Engleman won’t have to remove or alter his wind turbine in any way.
“He was approved under existing zoning, so he’s grandfathered in,” Olesen said. “We can’t take back what’s already been approved.”
But other homeowners considering turbines will have to comply with requirements ensuring the units are kept in good working order and follow steps in the event the turbines are no longer operating or homeowners wish to remove them. One of the most important requirements will be that regulating “fall zones,” the term given to the amount of land needed to ensure a wind turbine won’t crash into another home if it topples over.
The city is looking to impose a 1.5 “fall zone” that would require a homeowner’s property to have half again as much room as the height of a turbine.
“If a tower is 50 feet high, you need to have 75 feet clearance all around it,” Olesen said.
The committee has heard from some who feel the “fall zone” restrictions may be too restrictive, but city officials want to err on the side of caution, Olesen said.
“When those blades are extended, they could go past a property line very easily if they came loose or flew off in a high wind.”
Anthony Essig, whose Westlake-based American Green Energy company put up Engleman’s wind turbine, said firms that sell and erect wind turbines work to position the units to ensure enough clearance between properties so nearby structures would not be hit in the event a turbine fell over.
Most home-use turbines stand 35 feet tall and cost $28,000 to $40,000, according to Essig. Homeowners also would have to carry insurance on the turbines, Olesen said.
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.