As wind turbines become a more popular way to generate electricity for homes and businesses, at least one township in Wood County plans to adopt zoning rules that would regulate their use.
The Wood County Planning Commission is scheduled to review amendments to the Milton Township Zoning Resolution tomorrow that would limit the turbines’ height, color, and location. It would require a home or business owner to get a permit before installing one and submit an engineering report, site drawing, evidence of a clear fall zone, a maintenance schedule, a dismantling plan, and a list of all public and private airports in the area.
It’s a long to-do list, but Planning Director Dave Steiner said the idea is to make sure any turbines that are installed are built with public safety in mind.
“I want to promote green energy and renewable resources. I don’t want to discourage that at all, but I’m also concerned with public health and safety,” Mr. Steiner said.
He said that because the turbines are tall – Milton Township’s proposal would permit turbines up to 100 feet – if one were to fall over, he wouldn’t want it to fall on someone’s house or onto their neighbor’s property.
The township’s regulations go a step further – proposing that a turbine would need to be erected so that if it were to fall in any direction, it would not strike “any accessory buildings or uses,” which would include tool sheds, garages, and barns.
The zoning rules would not apply to commercial turbines like the ones near the Wood County Landfill. Those are considered public utilities, which are exempt from township zoning, said Linda Holmes, an assistant Wood County prosecutor who researched the issue for the county planning commission.
Ron Rego, northwest Ohio regional manager of Stark’s Mechanical north of Bowling Green, which sells wind turbines as part of its Green by Design division, said he supports regulations for residential turbines, but he found some of Milton Township’s rules “a little extreme,” including telling homeowners what color the turbines must be and requiring the fall zone to include every structure on the property.
“If it falls on a garage, that’s more of an insurance issue than a safety issue,” he said.
The turbines he sells range from 33 feet to 93 feet in height and cost from $15,000 to $44,700.
He also was uneasy about the requirement that a turbine must be removed by the owner if it becomes inoperable for more than six months. He said if a turbine needs a part, the owner is at the mercy of the manufacturer.
Milton Township Zoning Inspector Dan Wensink said there are no wind turbines in the rural township southwest of Bowling Green, which is zoned almost entirely for agriculture. He said the zoning board wanted to adopt the rules to put “in black and white” regulations for property owners who might want to install a turbine.
“It’s just not to deter it. It’s just to make sure it’s registered at a point in case someone puts one up and lets it go and it becomes an eyesore or a hazard to the community or becomes very volatile to blow over,” Mr. Wensink said.
While no townships in the county have zoning rules specific to wind turbines, Mr. Steiner said some consider turbines as they do any structure and apply the same height restrictions. Mr. Rego said his customers have had varying reactions from local officials when they go to install a wind turbine. “Some are very open to them, some are very closed, and some don’t want to deal with them at all because they know they’re opening a can of worms,” he said.
The planning commission meets at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow on the fifth floor of the county office building in the courthouse complex. The commission makes recommendations to the township’s zoning board on matters that ultimately are decided by township trustees.
By Jennifer Feehan
3 March 2008
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