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Winds not favorable for Salem turbines

SALEM – With concerns about the possibility of someone attempting to put wind energy turbines in the city of Salem, members of City Council’s rules and ordinance committee looked closely Thursday at some regulations proposed by Housing and Zoning Director Pat Morrissey.

If the legislation passes, it will allow the wind energy turbines a conditional uses within only two zoned areas inside the city – C-2 general commercial and M-2 heavy industrial zone district. The M-2 zone runs primarily along the railroad tracks, including the area where the city’s wastewater treatment plant is located. C-2 has several pockets throughout the city, including the area where the East Pershing Street extension is being completed, a large section at the northern tip of Salem and the area around FreshMark.

The regulations would limit the turbines to two per four-acre lot owned by one business or person. Wind farms of three or more turbines would not be permitted within city. The minimum amount of space needed would be four acres, although council members plan to revisit the acreage again before passing the legislation, especially after noticing Canfield’s minimum is 10 acres.

Salem’s turbines would be limited to those producing at least 100 kilowatts, which would eliminate smaller, single-family turbines. While those may have a place in a rural area, Morrissey said in his opinion, there is no place for them in urban areas. Many homes in Salem are lots of about 4,500 square feet, and a falling wind turbine would land on the neighbor’s property.

All wind turbines would have to be tied into Ohio Edison’s system, with an agreement in place between the owner and the electric distribution company.

There would be regulations regarding the pole on which the turbine is mounted and assurances it is well anchored in the ground. Setbacks of 1.3 percent of the height of the turbine would help insure if it fell over, other properties would not be affected. However, at this point, the legislation does not regulate how tall the wind turbine can be.

Morrissey said the board of zoning appeals, which will be the board before which those applying for conditional use permits would have to go, could make the decision on height on a case-by-case basis.

“The board of zoning appeals can put in any additional requirements they see fit, but these are the general regulations,” Morrissey said.

However, members of the rules and ordinance committee said they would like him to revisit the issue before height regulations are left out of the ordinance entirely.

Those applying for a wind turbine permit would be required to pay $750 for the permit, $600 of which would be used to cover the costs of an engineer the city would have to use to review the plans and construction of the wind turbine. There also would be an annual fee of $50 paid to the city.

The wind turbine tower would have no climbing rungs within 15 feet of the foundation. The blade’s lowest extent would have to be at least 30 feet from the ground. The turbine’s noise would be limited to 45 decibels as read by a meter 100 feet from the base of the tower.

Further the wind turbine could not interfere with Federal Aviation Administration regulations and paths, would not be lighted unless required by the FAA and could not have flags, decorations or advertising on it. It could not interfere with a television or communications signal, and if it did, the owner would have to correct the problem or take it down.

The wind turbine would be required to have overspeed controls and mechanical brakes for safety purposes.

Once the wind turbine was not in operation for six months, unless waiting for a part, the owner would be required to remove the wind turbine and its base.

Morrissey said he obtained information for writing the regulations from ordinances by other municipalities, the Ohio Revised Code, Law Director Brooke Zellers and Howells and Baird engineer Jon Vollnogle.

Members of council asked Morrissey to look into a couple additional concerns and bring the ordinance back to their board.

Chairman John Berlin asked how much the wind turbines cost to install. Morrissey responded that commercial ones cost about $400,000. However, there reportedly are tax credits and grants available to help cover the installation costs.