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Move to modify wind turbine law advances

Waukee city leaders on Monday took the first step to revise a year-old city law that governs wind turbines within city limits.

Council members voted 4-0 to approve the first of three required votes to modify the minimum lot size and maximum tower height on which a wind turbine can be constructed. The council will again vote on the changes later this month. Councilman Mike Watts was absent from the meeting.

Waukee High School’s Earth Club members sought the change in order to construct a taller turbine. The group, which was partly behind last summer’s passage of the ordinance, wants to construct a 100-foot turbine. It is limited to a 60-foot maximum height turbine under the current regulations.

Under the proposed changes:

– The minimum size lot on which a wind turbine could be constructed would be reduced from two acres to one acre.

– The height of the tower would fall into one of three categories – on lots fewer than three acres, a maximum tower of 60 feet could be constructed; between three and seven acres, a maximum of 80 feet; and more than seven acres, a maximum of 100 feet would be allowed.

– The ordinance also would include a definition for “climbing apparatus” and additional design standards.

The Earth Club’s turbine would fall under the 100-foot maximum.

Brad Deets, the city’s development services director, said the modifications would more closely align the city’s regulations with those recommended by the Metro Advisory Council, a multi-governmental collaboration to which Waukee belongs that reviews and discusses issues that affect central Iowa.

Councilman Shane Blanchard questioned whether construction of the turbine would have to meet setbacks – Deets said it would – but council members made no other comments about the changes.

The Earth Club’s turbine will be constructed on the football stadium/middle school property, Deets said.

The club received a $50,000 Pepsi Refresh grant in order to construct the turbine. Council members last August approved regulations that allowed wind turbines to be constructed on properties zoned for agricultural, commercial, industrial and multi-family residential uses.

The Earth Club’s request was one of the primary factors in creation of the ordinance.

Turbines are not allowed to be constructed in a single-family residential zoning district, Deets told council members.