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Longview council clears path for windmills

Longview resident Ken Spring’s illegal windmill soon may be legit.

Thursday, the City Council unanimously voted to direct the Longview Planning Commission to update the city’s residential zoning codes to allow windmills under to-be-determined circumstances. The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing and create regulations for the council to approve.

The action will save Spring, 71, the legal battle for which he’s already set up a “windmill defense fund.”

“I feel good about it, naturally,” Spring said, reached at home Thursday night. “I didn’t want to battle them over something that was so benign as a windmill, and I hope they come up with some sensible installation rules or regulations.”

Spring had asked the city more than a year ago about getting a permit for a 30-foot vintage farm windmill to power an irrigation pump for the 85 fruit trees on his 3-acre property on 33rd Avenue. City staff told him that because Longview doesn’t have any windmill regulations on the books yet, the issue needed to go before the Planning Commission.

Spring was told that unless he could get a City Council member to champion his cause and put it on the council’s agenda, he would have to pay the city $2,200 to request a zoning change to allow windmills. The fee would pay for staff research and analysis, a report to the Planning Commission and a public hearing. Then Spring would need to pay another $532 for a state environmental review.

Thinking it was “ridiculous” to pay nearly $3,000 to get permission for his windmill, Spring decided to ask a council member to help him. When the issue never came up on the council’s agenda, he decided to put the windmill up anyway. He obtained permits to drill the 80-foot-deep well and had a state-certified engineer supervise and sign off on the windmill project’s construction.

The city’s Community Development Director found out about the windmill early this month and contacted Spring.

Spring was adamant that the city would take down his windmill “when they pry my cold, dead hands off it” and prepared for battle.

However, Councilman Ken Botero, who had forgotten about Spring’s request last year, came through and put the windmill on Thursday’s agenda, backed by Councilman Don Jensen. They proposed that the Planning Commission look at allowing windmills for agricultural use. But others on the council wanted the commission to write regulations that applied to all windmills, including those that create power.

“If we can generate green power, that’s what we’re all trying to get done,” Councilman Chet Makinster said. “I don’t think we should limit it.”