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Wind power rules moving forward in Elyria

ELYRIA – City Council’s Community Development Committee took a step Monday toward further addressing zoning changes for wind turbines constructed in the city.

Elyria Catholic High School has an application that is pending with the Board of Zoning Appeals, but it has since been halted to allow Council time to amend the zoning code. The new legislation is incomplete, but Council members elected to move the new ordinance along so Council can work on it and not stall the proposed wind turbine project. Doing so will take the final decision on the project away from the board and give it to Council.

The legislation that will be presented to Council is not specific to Elyria Catholic and instead will set the standards for all wind turbine projects in the city, both commercial and residential.

Before voting to send the legislation to full Council for further review and a public hearing, two experts from the Lorain County Community College answered the questions of the Council members. Currently, LCCC has approval – garnered through the same process EC has already started – to build up to five wind turbines on the campus.

Duncan Estep, a professor in the LCCC wind turbine program, said three are already up and two more could come by the spring.

But Estep said the legislation still is needed because without strict guidelines from the city, there will be little control over how and where others are erected in the city.

“If the question is, ‘Do you need this kind of legislation?’ My answer is, ‘You absolutely do,’ ” he said. “We have wind turbines at the college and went through the variance process you now have in place. But at the college, the city is somewhat protected because it’s an education component with us teaching students how to put them up and take them down. Commercial or residential, you have to have the legislation in place to give you more protection in the city.”

Council members have spent two weeks discussion the proposed wind turbine legislation and said it will construct an ordinance that takes into height, the potential for noise pollution, the speed of the rotating blades, a fall zone to protect residents and homes should a wind turbine collapse, liability insurance and how and when a inoperable wind turbine should be decommissioned to prevent it from becoming an eyesore. There is language in the current proposed ordinance that addresses many of those concerns, but the final draft is still a number of weeks away from completion.

“It’s up to us to craft the legislation to protect the city from these things going up where we don’t want them,” said Councilman Larry Tanner, D-1st Ward. Tanner is not on the Community Development Committee, but attended Monday’s meeting.

The proposed EC project would be the first wind turbine installation in the city that is being done to offset energy cost. EC wants to construct a 155-foot-tall wind turbine at the rear of its property. It would be a 100-kilowatt wind turbine that would give the school the ability to bank and sell back energy to the electric company.

Councilman Jerry McHugh, D-7th Ward, said he has not heard many complaints from residents, but those he has heard through the area’s neighborhood watch coordinator concerns about how loud the turbine will be.