Oregon City Council unanimously approved a special use permit for the Oregon City Schools District for the installation of several wind turbines at 3604 Pickle Road.
Oregon Buildings and Zoning Commissioner James Gilmore said the schools requested the special use permit to install two turbines at Coy School.
City Council last month approved a special use permit for the district to install two wind turbines at Clay High School.
“The height of these wind turbines are 157-feet, and they’ll be located 160 feet from each property line,” said Gilmore. “The zoning on this property is R-1 and R-2. The adjoining properties are also R-1 an d R-2. It’ll be of tubular monopole design.”
Dean Sandwisch, director of business affairs for the Oregon City Schools District, said the district will install 100-kilowatt turbines at Coy, much smaller than the two 750-kilowatt turbines Clay will install next year.
“So these are substantially smaller units. They are roughly half the size in height. They will produce a range between 65-85 percent of the Coy Elementary School’s electrical use,” said Sandwisch.
All the turbines, he added, would be erected during the summer to allow the Black Swamp Bird Observatory to conduct a study of bird migration patterns between April and June, the peak period of migration. Environmental groups like the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, have been opposed to the wind turbines, saying their blades could injure or destroy birds and bats in the area. Environmentalists had asked council last month if they would delay approval of the special use permit for turbines for three years at Clay to give them time to conduct the study, but council refused.
“Those are the new developments, different from the last time we spoke,” said Sandwisch.
Ruth Utter, of Flo Drive, Oregon, said she was opposed to the turbines.
“This is a residential area. The property to the east is a lovely piece of property with a pond,” she said, which won’t be far from one of the turbines. “When we built our house, we built it with a backyard with a bay window in the back so we would have a nice view. Now we’re going to see turbines. I do not like to look out my window to see a wind turbine in a residential area.”
Councilman Mike Sheehy said he is sensitive to Utter’s concerns because he lives on Schmidlin Road, directly across from Coy School.
“When I walk or bicycle in the neighborhood, or walk in my front yard, I will be able to see the turbines. I think we’re all going to make sacrifices with respect to aesthetics in this regard. But in the movement toward renewable energy, experts say we don’t have a lot of time. We need to reduce carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere, and we need to do it quickly. I think it’s time to move to see if this can in fact help to save our planet. So I’ll support this,” said Sheehy.
Kimberly Kaufman, of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, said the Observatory will participate in the research studies. The Observatory has applied for a $26,000 grant to Coastal Ohio for a radar study. “We will continue to apply for other grants. We will absolutely refuse to accept any money from the schools. We don’t want our position tainted by money changing hands, and that’s happened all over this country, with national organizations that have really taken it on the chin for accepting money from agencies and from the wind industry to conduct these studies. That’s not what we’re after. We want to protect this area.”
She asked council to vote against the district’s request so they could add additional turbines for the schools “until we can conduct these studies.”
“This is a technology that’s in its infancy. And we really hope that in the interim of doing the studies we are beginning to do now, the technology will evolve and different designs would be emerging,” she said.
In fact, Northern Illinois Environmental Technologies has contacted the Observatory and the City of Port Clinton and asked to make a presentation of a new emerging design, she said.
The presentation will be at the Observatory on Dec. 31.
The Port Clinton Mayor and council will attend the meeting, she said..
“I would invite all of the council members to attend this meeting. It’s 20 minutes away. It won’t cost you a thing,” Kaufman said to Oregon council. “So if you’re not prepared to vote `no,’ I would ask that you table the vote until you can read the concerns of the Ohio Division of Wildlife, attend the meeting and hear about the emerging technology, then make your decision.”
Mark Shieldcastle, research director of the Observatory, said they just want an opportunity to conduct sound studies concerning displacement, migrational movements, as well as mortality issues.
“We’re asking for some time to try and get more information to make sound decisions in this region,” he said.
Mayor Mike Seferian said he supports the wind turbines, and didn’t think they would have any impact on birds.
“The birds are masters of the air. I believe they adapt to many things, especially wind turbines. I believe they are survivors,” said Seferian. “There may be some that go astray. But I think sometimes, birds aren’t given as much credit as they deserve. I think they’re very brilliant in the air. I think they’ll adapt to these turbines.” Seferian had urged council to vote in favor of the special use permit.
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