December 22, 2010
South Dakota

City council OKs wind turbine rule

BY: Jill Fier, Brookings Register, 22 December 2010

City councilors have approved an ordinance that allows private wind turbines in Brookings’ industrial zones.

If and when they’ll ever be permitted in the community’s residential neighborhoods is yet to be determined.

A few local residents have said they want to install turbines on their property.

But a city official says there’s very little interest on the topic here, and he wants more time to track the potential consequences of allowing that to happen .

Councilors voted unanimously last week to OK Ordinance No. 38-10 , amending the city’s zoning ordinance. Now small wind energy conversion systems can be installed in Light Industrial and Heavy Industrial districts. Use permits required

Both building and conditional-use permits from the city are required to install a wind turbine . That means permission is needed in each case from the Brookings Planning Commission and the Brookings City Council.

The ordinance came to the city council as a recommendation from the Brookings Planning Commission. City Planning and Zoning Administrator Dan Hanson said it includes such specifications as design, signage, removal of turbines that are not functioning, and setbacks.

Also required is a report on “shadow flicker,” or the pulsating light effect created when sunlight is interrupted at regular intervals by the turbine’s rotating blades. Hanson said “the commission and the council would be given a detailed report as to how the shadow flicker affects adjacent properties.”

Previously, wind turbines have not been allowed anywhere in the city, Hanson added. “This would be a first step, and we would monitor to see what type of impact they would have and what type of interest there would be for an industry to put up a wind turbine in the city of Brookings.” No home turbines … yet

As written, the ordinance does not permit turbines in residential zones. Brookings resident Cliff Kurtz said that’s what he’s interested in, and he questioned the need to limit turbines to 100 kW.

“I think we shouldn’t be passing industrial without consideration of residential. Folks like myself would like to do that.

“The advances in wind energy are increasing so rapidly that 3 1/2 years ago when I approached the residential end of it, I could find three wind turbines . Now there are over 200, and I don’t want to be left out of the loop by only allowing industrial wind generators.”

Vertical-axis generators can be more aesthetically pleasing that the standard design that comes to mind when people think of turbines, Kurtz added.

Hanson said the planning commission considered turbines in industrial, business and residential zones, and very few cities actually allow them in residential zones.

The golden rule with turbines is that “higher is better, bigger is better, because that is what becomes more efficient,” he explained. “However, we have to balance that with what its impact would be on adjacent residential properties, and that is a very high concern of ours. How would a wind turbine look in a residential neighborhood?”

Hanson said he’s also tracking increasing claims of health issues associated with wind turbines . Individuals who live close to large wind turbines have reported symptoms from the high-pitched whine of the turbines , the sound of the blades, and ground vibrations.

“Instead of jumping into an ordinance which we could regret, we would like to sit back, and we want to monitor how this is going to impact the community first from the industrial side. ” They’re all on the table. We just want to make sure that we write an ordinance that is safe for everybody.” Current city staff recommendation is that turbines not be permitted in residential districts , at least for now, Hanson said.

“We have researched this very carefully. I’ve looked at many, many ordinances. We did bring it up briefly with the planning commission. There was really no push by the commission to do any more than what this ordinance states. Little input

“We’ve had very little input from the community on this. Mr. Kurtz and maybe one or two other people in the entire community . ” We’d rather sit back and make sure we’re passing ordinances which will be good down the road.”

Hanson said there have been no requests for turbines in industrial zones.

Councilor Jael Thorpe acknowledged that interest in this topic here seems to be limited , and producing wind energy is expensive.

“But personally all I’ve really ever heard interest for wind energy in Brookings is residential , so I think it’s important to have that at least outlined somewhere in the ordinance, however restrictive we choose to make that.”

City Manager Jeff Weldon said the topic of wind turbines in residential neighborhoods will be taken back to the planning commission.

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