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Woodstock Council passes turbine ordinance

After months of planning and debate, the Woodstock Town Council on Tuesday approved an ordinance that would allow wind turbines in some areas by special-use permit.

The legislation was driven by a Shenandoah County Public Schools’ request for a turbine to be built outside Central High School and W.W. Robinson Elementary through the Wind Powering America’s Wind for Schools initiative.

Councilman Stephen Heishman said before the vote that he knew Superintendent Keith Rowland was anxious to get the project rolling.

The initiative’s goal is to put turbines at rural public schools to raise awareness about wind energy.

The high school students are working with students from James Madison University, and will spend a year measuring wind speeds. The data will be analyzed to determine whether a small energy system for the school should be bought.

JMU will pay for the construction of the 66-foot tower.

The ordinance, which was tweaked to make it stricter following some residents’ concerns at a public hearing last year, would only allow the turbines by special-use permit in medium-density residential districts only.

They’d only be allowed for institutional, medical, educational or government activities, and their noise level can’t be above 60 decibels.

“That’s just to clarify or further restrict where this type of thing would be allowed,” said Assistant Town Manager/Planner Brent Manuel at a Woodstock Planning Commission meeting in January.

Another alteration was to increase the minimum acreage on which a turbine can stand from 1 acre to 5 acres.

The ordinance was passed on a unanimous vote of the Town Council. It will go into effect May 31, Angela Clem, the town’s assistant planner and risk manager, said after the meeting.

Manuel said the town’s charter calls for a 30-day period during which appeals could be filed for any ordinance.