A draft ordinance that would allow wind turbines for energy production is one step closer to getting the “green” light in Norton Shores.
During a work session Tuesday night, the city council gave administrators the nod to have the planning commission review the ordinance, which could be adopted this summer.
If approved, residential and commercial turbines would be allowed to operate inside the city for the first time. Currently, the city’s zoning books do not specifically address turbines, so they are not allowed, said Community Development Director Dick Maher.
The planning commission could schedule a public hearing as early as next month. The board would then send a recommedation to the city council. The council would have the final say on the proposal, officials said.
“Let’s get it out to the public for their input,” said Councilman Dick Dolack. “Let’s go forward.”
The ordinance would allow 70-foot towers on homes and businesses, Maher said. Such turbines would be six-to-eight feet in diameter. The proposed property-line setback would protect neighbors in residential settings, Maher said.
“It’s kind of self-limiting,” he said. “If you have a 100-foot lot, you could only have a 50-foot tower.”
Initially, the city’s proposal covered two turbine classifications: Individual units that residents or businesses would operate and so-called commercial “wind farms.”
Now, a third category is under consideration: A single turbine in a common area that would be shared in new residential developments, Maher said. Such turbines could be 70 to 200 feet, according to the draft ordinance.
In a memo to the city council, Maher said a draft overlay district outlines where such wind farms could operate. They would include the Nugent Sand/Jackson Merkey properties, the Muskegon Elks Park along Lake Harbor, the Muskegon Motorcycle Hill Climb property and the Elks property on Pontaluna Road.
Wind farm turbines could be 60 to 80 feet in diameter and only be placed on properties with at least 20 acres.
Maher said the cost for a residential roof-mounted turbine ranges from $5,000 to $30,000, depending on size and other options.
The city is not offering tax breaks for residents or companies that install turbines. Most residential turbines would supplement electricity from power companies, officials said.
“For an individual home owner, it’s more about wanting to get some green energy as opposed to really saving money,” Maher said. “The paybacks are pretty (limited).”
Maher said the purpose of the ordinance is to give residents and businesses the ability to install turbines while giving them rules to follow.
He said “a couple businesses in town” have inquired about whether they could use a turbine to offset energy costs.
Last summer, Nugent Sand officials asked to erect a temporary wind measuring system to determine whether turbines would be feasible. Maher said company officials are not considering a “wind farm,” but one turbine.
The city has been developing the ordinance since February, Maher said.
Posted by Chad D. Lerch | The Muskegon Chronicle
27 May 2008
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