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IGH keeps wind turbine ordinance moving

An ordinance that would allow vertical axis wind turbines in certain areas of Inver Grove Heights is still churning, despite mixed opinions on the city council.

The council voted 4-1 to advance the draft ordinance to a third and final reading in its Nov. 12 meeting. While the move doesn’t guarantee the ordinance will make it into city code, it keeps the draft alive for discussion.

If the ordinance does pass a final reading at the council’s Nov. 25 meeting, it would allow vertical axis wind turbines at heights up to 52.5 feet in certain agricultural and residentially zoned districts of the city.

The turbines described in the ordinance are distinct from the traditional windmill style in that the blades spin vertically around the base, rather than using a horizontally-oriented propeller. The turbines are currently allowed in certain zoning districts with a conditional use permit, which requires applicants to pay permit fees and receive permission from the city council before they begin construction.

Making law for one request?

According to Council member Dennis Madden, the current provisions for wind turbines are sufficient –– especially considering only one resident so far has expressed an interest in switching the ordinance from conditional to permitted use.

“We’re creating an ordinance for one piece of property,” Madden said at the meeting. “I don’t see the use.”

Madden argued the turbines would detract from Inver Grove Height’s rural aesthetic.

“The thing is we’ve got a beautiful city here with beautiful terrain,” Madden said. “We have beautiful rolling hills, trees all over… and we’re going to sit here and put something that’s 52 feet high sticking up over those trees. That, to me, is an eyesore, and nobody has ever told me where these things pay off.”

Growing interest?

Council member Tom Bartholomew defended the proposed ordinance, however, saying he viewed it as a worthwhile change whatever the demand.

“I don’t look at it as an ordinance for one person,” Bartholomew said. “I look at it as an ordinance that provides for vertical axis [turbines].”

Vance Grannis Jr., the resident pursuing the ordinance change, also spoke at the meeting, saying he considered the additional cost and rigor of pursuing a conditional use permit for the turbines to be a hardship. As far as the limited interested in the turbines, Grannis said he’s talked to several people who indicate they would also construct turbines if the city were to allow them as a permitted use.

“If you’re going to allow it as a conditional use, why not allow it as a permitted use with all the regulations that are in this ordinance?” Grannis said.

The council had the option of holding the final vote on the ordinance at the Nov. 12 meeting, but voted instead to push the ordinance to a third reading in order to explore removing the E-2 zoning district from the list of permitted-use areas. E-2 has the smallest lot requirements of the three districts originally proposed; the ordinance also stipulates a minimum of 15 acres per turbine. The A “agricultural” and E-1 “estate” districts will remain in the ordinance for the final reading.