Residents and business owners in North Whitehall Township may soon be able to put up windmills to generate electricity and some energy independence for their properties.
The township Planning Commission is set to review a proposed ordinance would permit windmills, or wind turbines, as accessory uses in all zoning districts, meaning they would be allowed in residential, rural and commercial areas as long as they are not the primary use of the property.
”I think it’s something we saw coming down the track,” township Supervisor Chairman Ron Stahley said. ”We have to be in favor of things like that to try to green up our area.”
If the law is adopted, would join a small, but growing number of area municipalities passing ordinances to meet demand for windmills.
In North Whitehall, windmills would be allowed in all zoning districts, however, they must meet design, engineering and safety criteria. The draft ordinance requires windmills to be located 110 percent of their height from any structure or property line. That means a 50-foot windmill would have to be located at least 55 feet from buildings or legal boundaries.
The ordinance would require:
Wind rotors – which are the blades and hub – to be at least 25 feet off the ground.
Windmills would only be allowed to generate power for the property they are located on and not any adjacent properties. Also, the structures would be required to be equipped with a braking system.
The windmills must not be lighted, unless required by the Federal Aviation Administration for pilot visibility.
On-site power and transmission lines would have to be buried underground. The ordinance would allow storage buildings for wind turbine equipment measuring up to 150 square feet.
Any windmills that are unused for a year or more must be decommissioned by the property owner.
The proposed ordinance is scheduled for review by planners in August. The commission must make a recommendation to township supervisors before the law is adopted and put into effect.
Washington and Heidelberg townships are considering similar laws. Abe Ahner, chairman of the Washington Township supervisors, said he expects the township to vote in August to advertise an ordinance for adoption. Ahner said right now there are no regulations in the township and someone could erect a windmill anywhere. He said regulations are needed for safety.
Heidelberg Township has not yet drafted a formal ordinance.
By Sarah Fulton | Special to The Morning Call
24 July 2008
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