The Andover City Council Tuesday night approved an updated wind turbine ordinance.
Five months ago, the council approved an ordinance governing what wind energy conversion systems (WECS) would be allowed in residential and commercial areas.
Councilmember Don Jacobson said the ordinance approved last spring did not allow any of these systems in areas of the community zoned R-4, which is s higher density residential area. The updated ordinance allows WECS in the R-4 districts, but in very limited circumstances.
City Administrator Jim Dickinson has told the council that the ordinance makes it very difficult to put up a WECS in Andover.
Jacobson said as technology improves, it would be easier for applicants to meet the requirements of the ordinance. When this happens, the council would not have to go through the ordinance drafting process.
“We didn’t want to outlaw them 100 percent of the time,” Jacobson said.
If a resident is interested in the technology, the best thing for them to do is research it. Jacobson mentioned the Eco Experience at the Minnesota State Fair as a good resource. Residents can call city staff to ask if a WECS would be possible on their lot.
If a property owner finds out they meet the ordinance requirements and still want a WECS they must apply for a conditional use permit (CUP). They would also have to pay for the creation of a public notification sign and a recording fee.
According to the 2010 fee schedule, which is annually updated, a commercial applicant would pay $1,130. A residential applicant would pay $480.
Andover began looking at this ordinance after a couple of residents asked the city questions about putting up a wind turbine. The council adopted the unfinished ordinance March 16 so something would be in place in case an application came forward, according to Councilmember Julie Trude. No CUP application for a WECS has been made.
Residential turbines must produce less than 40 kilowatts (kW). Commercial turbines produce 409 kW or more.
Beyond the electrical output created, heights, setbacks and placement are other major factors in determining whether a WECS would be allowed on a particular Andover property.
WECS not on a roof must be in the rear yard. The former ordinance would have allowed these in the front yard, which the council did not want to allow.
The setback requirement from the nearest dwelling, school, business, property line, recreational field or public right of way is 1.5 times the height of the WECS that an applicant wants to put up.
If a property is large enough to meet the setback requirements, the blades of the WECS must be at least 30 feet away from any tree line or accessory structure.
Jacobson said there are 2.5 acre lots that would meet the requirements, but not many.
A commercial WECS must be on a parcel that is at least five acres. Wind farms that sell generated power would not be allowed in Andover, according to the new ordinance.
Rooftop WECS must have an electrical output of less than 10 kW. These systems could extend no more than 15 feet above the roof.
A policy of liability insurance would be required for any WECS user. Residential applicants would have to have a liability insurance amount of $100,000. A commercial applicant would have to have an insurance amount of $500,000.
Councilmember Mike Knight has consistently raised concerns about the low rumbling noise these WECS could put out. Jacobson and Trude do not feel this would be an issue.
Trude said she asked St. Olaf College students living in a dorm near a wind turbine what they thought and she said the students had no problem with it.
Dickinson said if noise complaints become an issue, the city council could re-address this topic.
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