National Wind Watch: Wind Energy News Industrial Wind Energy/Wind Power News

July 11, 2012

Pearson to challenge city’s wind turbine decision

Filed under: Iowa — National Wind Watch @ 8:10 am

Pearson will go before the Iowa City Board of Adjustment today to request that the board overturn a ruling preventing the company from building a wind turbine on its property on the northeast edge of the city.

However, Doug Boothroy, the city’s Housing and Inspection director, said city code does not list a wind turbine as a “permitted accessory” for the office building and is unable to overrule the code.

“There should be public comment on it,” Boothroy said Tuesday.

According to a brief, authored by attorney Michael Pugh, in support of overruling Boothroy’s decision, the city told Pearson’s consultant Shive-Hattery in December 2011 that it would be permitted to build a wind turbine on its property. Pearson is located north of Interstate 80 near the Dodge Street intersection.

The proposed turbine would have a tower height of 115 feet and reach a total height of 142.9 feet when the turbine blade is factored in. Pearson then spent $314,000 to purchase the turbine, according to documents.

However, in March the city informed Pearson they had erred in their judgment of the project and the turbine could not be built.

Specifically, Boothroy said wind turbines customarily are not associated with office buildings as an accessory use. Under the city’s zoning code, structures must be classified as a common accessory use in order to be permitted. Wind turbines are not identified in the city code as an accessory use.

“The conclusion is that this is not an accessory use that is allowed,” Boothroy said. “It’s not allowed because it’s not identified.”

Common examples of accessory uses are parking lots and garages, fences, signs or in-home daycares, Boothroy said.

However, in his brief, Pugh argues that the code allows for accessory uses “associated with a permitted use, provisional use or special exemption are permitted, provided they are operated and maintained.” Additionally, Pugh states that just because the turbine is not identified in the code, doesn’t mean it should be excluded.

“Under the City’s interpretation of the Code, private property owners would not be able to install solar panels, geothermal heating and cooling systems or green roofs; none of which are addressed by the Code,” Pugh wrote.

Pugh, who did not return a message seeking comment, notes the University of Iowa’s Services Building on Madison Street and Iowa City’s East Side Recycling Center as locations with wind turbines.

“The City has permitted installation of a wind turbine at a university building and a public building, but now, for the first time, argues that the very same wind turbines are not permitted under the Code,” the brief states.

However, Boothroy said there are no examples of office buildings commonly being associated with wind turbines.

“The structure would be quite noticeable,” he said. “There needs to be a public vetting of whether it’s appropriate to have that as an accessory use.”

Rather than have the Board of Adjustment overturn his decision, Boothroy said the “proper thing to do” would be changing the code, if that is what the public wants.

Boothroy said the city’s planning department has researched regulations to determine if turbines could be allowed as an accessory use.

However, before the code could be amended, it would have to go through Planning and Zoning and to the City Council, which would allow public comment before a decision could be made.

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