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Ordinance regulating small wind turbines is approved

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news Willmar, 56201
West Central Tribune
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Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR -- Due to a short agenda, the Willmar City Council set a new record Monday for the shortest meeting: 12 minutes.

The meeting started at 7:05 p.m. and was adjourned at 7:17 p.m. according to the official watch of City Administrator Michael Schmit, who was taking minutes in the absence of City Clerk-Treasurer Kevin Halliday.

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Schmit said the previous record was 15 to 17 minutes, but he couldn't recall the date. Most likely, though, it occurred at the beginning of a year, such as now, when there isn't as much city business to conduct.

"We're going to enjoy it because it doesn't happen very often,'' he told the Tribune.

Council members quickly dispatched the two main agenda items: consideration of an amended ordinance regulating small wind turbines, and receiving the Dec. 28 Finance Committee meeting report.

The council voted 7-1 to adopt the ordinance establishing standards and procedures for installing and operating small wind turbines, also known as wind energy conversion systems.

The amended ordinance defines a wind energy conversion system as an electrical generating facility comprised of one or more wind turbines and accessory facilities that convert wind energy into electrical energy.

The ordinance was studied and proposed by the Planning Commission after a local individual indicated an interest in erecting a turbine to charge golf cart batteries. Planners said the ordinance was needed because the present zoning ordinance does not regulate the turbines.

The ordinance was first considered by the council in November, but council members sent the ordinance back to the Planning Commission to further study issues relating to noise, aesthetics and lot-size requirements.

Because the amendments substantially changed the previous ordinance, City Attorney Rich Ronning recommended the council hold another hearing on the amended ordinance, which the council did Monday night. No community member spoke for or against the ordinance.

Bruce Peterson, director of planning and development services, said the Planning Commission recommended increasing the size of a residential lot to 100 feet in width for a free-standing or structure-mounted system. Systems on lots less than 100 feet in width are limited to structure mounts, such as a house, shed or garage.

Planners recommended limiting the diameter of a traditional bladed-type turbine to seven feet and a height of 10 feet.

Also, planners recommended the systems not exceed a sound level 30 decibels at the property line, which Peterson said is approximately equal to a whisper.

Voting to adopt the ordinance were Bruce DeBlieck, Rick Fagerlie, Steve Ahmann, Ron Christianson, Doug Reese, Jim Dokken and Tim Johnson.

Voting against was Denis Anderson.

Anderson said he appreciated the Planning Commission's work, but said he still has great reservations about seeing any type of turbines in residential areas. Anderson said he did not support the ordinance when it allows turbines in both residential and business areas.

"I think it makes a lot of sense to have them in the business section and industrial areas, but I just don't see why we would want to allow that in the city. I think it would have a denigrating effect on the neighborhoods,'' he said.

In an interview, Peterson said the ordinance defines a structure as a garage or a shed or a house. A commercial structure would be the building in which the business operates.

Peterson said homeowners would currently available systems to charge batteries or even cover part of their electrical needs.

But owners tying systems into the regular wiring must work through the National Electrical Code to ensure proper connections and must receive approval from the Municipal Utilities, Peterson said.

In other business, the council approved revisions to the Community Education and Recreation Joint Powers Agreement, which was approved by the City of Willmar and the Willmar Public Schools on Jan. 1, 2000.

The revisions were discussed and recommended by the Finance Committee. Anderson, committee chairman, said the revisions essentially call for more involvement in development and maintenance of parks and recreation facilities and minor revisions to the composition of the Joint Powers Board.

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David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150
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