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BZA debates private wind turbine , other matters

The Culver Board of Zoning Appeals had a full agenda with two continuances and five new petitions for variance of ordinance standards. The continuance for Dave Pitera, 522 S. Plymouth St. was quickly handled and his petition of a north side yard setback to allow a garage addition was approved.
However, the continuance of a previous petition for a private wind turbine unit for Thomas Kamrow, 19478 20A Road, was a more lengthy discussion as board members were presented with a considerable amount of information from Glen Smith, Wind Wire representative for Skystream. Skystream is advertised as a revolutionary residential power appliance for utility-connected homes.
Although the BZA approved a Special Use permit in June for the private wind turbine unit at the Kamrow location as required by ordinance in an S-1 district, the members were not convinced that it was in the public safety and welfare that the setbacks proposed were adequate. The variance presented was a 10 foot setback on the north rear yard and an east side yard setback of 60 feet both setbacks by ordinance standards would be 85’6″ or one and one-half times the length of the turbine from the base. The turbine is projected at 57 feet tall. At that time, the petitioners requested a continuance.
Smith came prepared with numerous rulings in other jurisdictions allowing a 10 to 20 foot setback for residential turbines. These included Ft. Wayne, Allen County, Marion, Frankfort, Tipton County and Miami County. He said that the placement of the turbine was essential to catch the wind speed necessary to produce the maximum capability of the turbine. A wind speed of 5 to 8 miles an hour is needed and to move the proposed site back from the 10 feet requested would put the turbine behind a grove of pine trees bordering the property and would reduce the ability of the turbine to generate electricity at least 20 percent. If placed as requested, the turbine could produce up to 2,000 kilowatts a month. It had previously been established at the June meeting, that excess electricity generated would be allowed into the NIPSCO grid and would give the homeowner credit.
Smith also produced information that a recent court case in which a decision by a Warrick County Superior Court judge allowing private wind turbines on private property was upheld by the Indiana Appeals Court. In their unanimous decision, the Appeals Court ruled that not allowing wind turbines in a residential area would prevent property owners from benefiting from public policies encouraging alternative energy development.
Smith again emphasized that the turbine was UL tested and approved to withstand winds up to 140 mph. John Crist, 918 W. Shore, asked about the sound level and Smith replied that at wind speeds of 40 to 60 mph, the decibel level would range about 40.
Kamrows said that if the ordinance requirements were met on the north, it would put the turbine in the front yard of their residence. Letters from the neighbors, John Loxas and Robert Weaver, were introduced showing their support.
In the absence of chairman, Dan Adams, Chuck Dilts, vice-president, moved to findings of fact. Members Barbara Winters, John Helphrey, Bobbie Ruhnow and Dilts, voted no to all questions on the findings. Dilts then advised that the petitioner had the opportunity to ask for an additional continuance to address the board’s concerns before a final vote was taken. If a board member voted no to any question on the findings of fact sheet, they are required to vote no to the petitioner’s request. The petitioners requested a continuance. Board members explained that they felt there could be compromises made in the north rear yard setback request and none had been presented. They explained that what might be accepted in other zoning areas, were not necessarily conducive to our zoning jurisdictions. Even though the north property is presently a corn field, future developments could occur. Helphrey suggested an easement be obtained from the north side property owner which would allow the required setback be met.
In other business, variances were granted to Larry and Joan Bess, 24 Fleet Pkwy. to not require a sidewalk installation,Robert and Patricia Brandstatter, 886 W. Shore Dr., to remodel and add to a non-conforming structure, and a height variance of 40’5″ to the Culver Academies for their new White-DeVries Rowing Center,
A petition for variance to replace a garage on a zoning lot without a principal structure by Maryann Sherman, 1042 W. Shore Drive, met with some remonstrance from adjacent property owners. The present garage is too small to contain the pontoons and ski-boats owned by Sherman, she said and due to the lot size, a variance of 2 feet from the 10 feet required on both east and west sides were needed. Rick Huff, attorney for Zizics, adjacent home owners objected as the Zizics hope to eventually develop their adjacent lot into a residential property and the setback would be too close. Mary Catherine McBride, 1042 W. Shore Drive also wrote a letter of objection and was concerned with water run-off and the proximity of a new garage to their present property. Kevin Berger, Easterday Construction, as agent for Sherman, asked for a continuance as it was apparent from the board’s replies to findings of fact sheets that the petition could not be granted with the present dimensions.
The final petition was also continued as the petitioner nor agent were present. Port Plaza, 1028 W. Shore Drive, had made a request for variance to install an underground tornado shelter. As there was no one present to answer any questions or concerns from the board, no action was taken.
The Culver Plan Commission had a brief but interesting meeting as there was discussion of placing a gazebo on top of a boat house. Only one lake related structure is allowed in the front yard in a lake district It was agreed that two variances would be required from the BZA.
Mike Maddox, Maddox Electric, was present to discuss the placement of a hot tub on a boat house. Russell Mason, building commissioner, advised Maddox that a variance was required as the tub is capable of holding 30″ of water and therefore, classified as a swimming pool which is not allowed in the front yard of a L-1 district. Discussion ensued about the structural capability of the boat house holding the hot tub and Trent Bennett, Bennett’s Contracting, said they were already looking into adding steel posts and a cross beam to hold the weight. Brandon Cooper, member, made a motion that if a hot tub is capable of holding 30″ of water or more, no matter what water level is proposed by the owner, it should be classified as a pool and would need a variance. Barry McManaway, member, seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.