Douglas County commissioners voted 3-2 Thursday to approve the first reading of an ordinance that eases restrictions on placing wind turbines in residential areas.
Commissioners Mike Olson, Dave Brady and Doug Johnson voted in favor of the measure with Greg Lynn and Nancy McDermid in opposition.
The zoning text amendment, if approved on second reading, amends requirements for small and micro wind energy conversion systems including parcel size, height and setback requirements.
It was approved 5-1 last month by planning commissioners.
In recommending approval, associate county planner Dirk Goering said the proposed ordinance would encourage county policy to support development of nonpolluting renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and geothermal energy.
Debate centered on whether such systems would be noisy and impact views.
“The ordinance is really a balancing act,” Goering said.
He pointed out that no one has the statutory right to a view.
Longtime resident Gary Carsten said he appreciated the effort Goering put into researching the subject.
He encouraged the county to monitor a similar ordinance in Carson City.
“The neighbors loved it, but within a week, there was a huge public outcry about the noise,” he said. “Keep an eye on the resolution of what happens in Carson City before we adopt it here.”
The 43-year resident of Douglas County said people live here because of the quality of life.
“Alternative energy is going to be here. Let’s approach it with cautious optimism and not get carried away with leniency,” he said.
Resident Donna Buddington said she favored alternative energy but was concerned whether owners of micro energy systems would keep up maintenance.
“These things take a lot of maintenance and can become increased liability,” she said.
Buddington said she lived next door to an abandoned solar panel system. She urged the board to proceed carefully.
“It’s a lot easier to keep the ordinance tight than to loosen it up,” she said.
Olson said he was glad the county was moving forward on the issue.
“My concern is that we encourage the use of newer technology,” he said.
McDermid said maintenance and abandonment of systems could become a liability.
Goering said there was no inspection program within the ordinance.
“It would be complaint driven,” he said.
Lynn said he liked the ordinance the way it was.
“What do we want our community to look like? Dotted with wind generators?” he asked. “Look around the country. There’s one constant – they are noisy.”
He said the technology is coming, but it’s not here.
“What we’re going to do is create neighbor vs. neighbor issues,” Lynn said.
Johnson said he’d like the ordinance to permit the structures on one-acre parcels.
Currently, the restriction is five acres, but the new ordinance would reduce it to two acres.
“I don’t want to overregulate, but I don’t want to get antiquated yard ornaments,” Johnson said.
Olson said he believes technology would be improved with “American ingenuity.”
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