All around the unincorporated edges of Heath, tall wind turbines are popping up.
But not in Heath.
Like many others, the Rockwall County city has been wondering how best to deal with new clean energy technology.
A year ago, the city passed an ordinance limiting wind turbines to properties of 100 or more acres.
“The council did that initially to buy some time,” Assistant City Manager Kim Dobbs said. “It allowed them to study the issue further.”
A three-member committee ended up recommending a more liberal ordinance. The City Council approved it unanimously Tuesday night. The law still strictly defines where the towers may be placed.
“What the committee really worked with was trying to make it a little more user-friendly,” City Council and committee member Steve McKimmey said. “Now it’s an entitlement.”
Residents are entitled, however, only if the turbine will be on 10 or more acres. Those who want a turbine on smaller sites must still apply for a permit. Rooftop turbines also require a permit.
A number of other restrictions apply including proper building permits, regulated lighting and noise. Signs are not permitted on towers.
John Main, who also served on the committee, said 10 acres just seemed like a reasonable amount of land for the tall structures. It soothes concerns about aesthetics and noise.
While much of Heath has traditional residential lots, there are still a number of large properties that could erect the systems.
Turbines are becoming more and more of an issue as homeowners become interested in renewable energy.
More than a half-dozen turbines have gone up on property near Heath but not within the city limits. Rockwall County has no limits on the turbines.
The city of Rockwall handles applications on a case-by-case basis.
So far there are two in Rockwall, planning and zoning manager Michael Hampton said. One is industrial-size and one is on top of a barn.
“Wind turbines really haven’t been a proven thing in this area,” Hampton said.
Nearby Garland has an ordinance that allows turbines on much smaller properties but limits the height to 40 feet.
Rowlett revised its ordinance in September. Turbines can be installed on lots as small as an acre, but those require a special use permit. The city worked with homeowners associations on the changes. Association rules may apply to installations.
More cities are passing ordinances governing wind energy systems, said Russell Smith, executive director of the Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association.
He said Heath’s first attempt that limited systems to 100 acres or more was similar to others, which made it seem as if the systems are allowed while actually being so restrictive that few can be built.
“A lot of the ordinances are all over the map, and a lot of them are misguided,” he said.
He encourages those interested in wind systems to do the homework. They need to learn not only about city ordinances, but about homeowners association rules and whether the systems will work in a specific location.
“Everybody thinks they have wind, but they don’t,” he said. HEATH’S WIND ENERGY ORDINANCE A look at the changes The Heath City Council voted Tuesday to change its wind energy ordinance to allow homeowners to more easily put up wind turbines. Here is a comparison of the old and new ordinances. OLD NEW Turbines not allowed on sites of less than 100 acres. Property must be at least 10 acres. Conditional use permit required. Conditional use permit needed on properties less than 10 acres. Height may not exceed 55 feet. May be taller than 55 feet. Smaller rooftop systems need conditional use permit and follow same procedure as pole system. Rooftop systems still need conditional use permit. Technical requirements apply as determined by building official. Direct connection to utility grid not permitted. May be connected to utility grid. SOURCE: City of Heath
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