The pioneering effort to install the first wind turbines inside the city limits has caught a second wind.
The willingness of the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City Electrical Training Center, 2300 Johnson Ave. NW, to compromise on its plan to install three wind turbines at its site convinced the City Planning Commission on Thursday to take a new look at IBEW Local 405 center’s request for a conditional-use permit needed before wind turbines can be installed in the city.
The planning commission had approved the center’s original plan in October, but the Board of Adjustment, which has the final say in the matter, subsequently rejected the plan on a 2-2 vote after neighbors objected.
The city ordinance calls for an applicant to wait a year once denied before submitting a new application unless the applicant’s proposal has significant changes or significant new information, which allows for a “successive” application.
The commission said the training center had met the standard and gave the go-ahead for it to file a successive application. The Board of Adjustment takes up the matter on Monday.
Mike Carson, director of the training center, told commission members and surprised objecting neighbors at Thursday’s commission meeting that the center would seek to install two, 37-foot-tall turbines as originally planned but remove a 61-foot-tall turbine from its proposal.
After the meeting, Carson said the center’s “compromise” proposal was an attempt to show good faith to the neighbors. At the same time, he said he did not think the proposal, unchanged, would have won planning commission backing and the subsequent approval of the Board of Adjustment.
Tom Zenisek, who lives across Johnson Avenue NW from the training center, told the commission that he was pleased to hear that the center had removed the tallest of three wind turbines from its plans, but he said he still wasn’t pleased with the plan to install two smaller ones on the center’s site.
Zenisek, of 257 24th St. NW, said the neighborhood had succeeded in recent years in making a case to stop any expansion of commercial investment along Johnson Avenue NW in an area zoned residential. He said the training center, which previously had been a grocery store and a post office, has been a good neighbor. But he viewed the addition to the center’s site as a move to further commercialize the neighborhood.
In July, the City Council created a new wind-turbine ordinance that allows the turbines in residential and other areas of the city, but only with a conditional-use permit.
Carson noted that the training center had obtained government grants for the turbine project so it can train its electricians to install and maintain them, expose the public to renewable energy and generate some electricity for the center.
Allan Thoms, vice chairman of the planning commission, said Carson had made significant enough changes to his proposal to get a rehearing on it. However, Thoms, for one, said he wasn’t sure having even a 37-foot-tall turbine in his own neighbor is what he wanted to see.
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