Article

Temporary moratorium in place on turbines to allow public feedback

Disgusting, ugly, atrocious monstrosities... These are words some local residents used to describe residential wind turbines a few homeowners have purchased and installed on their properties in and around Estes Park. The one wind turbine within town limits, located on Highway 7, steered the focus of the meeting on Thursday, called to open public discussion on re-regulating the turbines. Due to public opposition, town officials issued a 120-day temporary moratorium.

Disgusting, ugly, atrocious monstrosities... These are words some local residents used to describe residential wind turbines a few homeowners have purchased and installed on their properties in and around Estes Park. The one wind turbine within town limits, located on Highway 7, steered the focus of the meeting on Thursday, called to open public discussion on re-regulating the turbines.

Due to public opposition, town officials issued a 120-day temporary moratorium at the Tuesday, Aug. 13 town board meeting, to halt issuing any new building permits for the horizontal wind turbines within town limits.

Bob Joseph, community development director, took the heat for allowing the few horizontal, three-blade turbines that have already been installed by private property owners. Given the code regulations in place, not to exceed 30 feet, among other restrictions, the town allowed residents to purchase and install the turbines.

"The land use code does not currently prohibit these installations," Joseph said. "All the installations that have been permitted are under that height limit. Our recent practice until the moratorium was enacted to treat these like any other structure and I would argue that the town had a compelling legal... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Disgusting, ugly, atrocious monstrosities... These are words some local residents used to describe residential wind turbines a few homeowners have purchased and installed on their properties in and around Estes Park. The one wind turbine within town limits, located on Highway 7, steered the focus of the meeting on Thursday, called to open public discussion on re-regulating the turbines.

Due to public opposition, town officials issued a 120-day temporary moratorium at the Tuesday, Aug. 13 town board meeting, to halt issuing any new building permits for the horizontal wind turbines within town limits.

Bob Joseph, community development director, took the heat for allowing the few horizontal, three-blade turbines that have already been installed by private property owners. Given the code regulations in place, not to exceed 30 feet, among other restrictions, the town allowed residents to purchase and install the turbines.

"The land use code does not currently prohibit these installations," Joseph said. "All the installations that have been permitted are under that height limit. Our recent practice until the moratorium was enacted to treat these like any other structure and I would argue that the town had a compelling legal obligation to do that. The courts hold that the interpretation is always in the land owners favor. It's my opinion that legal authority (to deny the installation of the turbines) does not exist. Obviously, the reason the trustees took the action this week to put the moratorium in place was to allow the public discussion input on how these ought to be regulated, or even to the extent of whether they ought to be allowed at all, to take place before we have a bunch of them around town."

Joseph outlined eight issues the planning commission initially visited when regulating installation of residential horizontal wind turbines: height of tower, ridgeline protection and visual impacts, setbacks and zoning districts, highway corridors, noise, flicker, energy audits, and inoperative units and disrepair.

Dave Rusk said that he is in favor of the wind turbines, but wants them to be installed in a way that is not objectionable to the public, "so that they will fit into our environment," he said. "We have a very unique environment here, one with unique wind as well as unique views."

To increase efficiency, Rusk suggested that the 30-foot restriction be increased, as long as it didn't exceed the average height of the trees in town. Joseph also noted that the 30-foot restriction proposed a problem due to the fact that the higher the installation, the better the horizontal units work.

The meeting on Thursday focused primarily on the horizontal wind turbines, resulting in strong opposition from many at the forum. Joseph took a informal vote at the meeting, with 12 opposed and seven in favor of the units. Those opposed to the horizontal wind turbines stated concerns about wildlife, raptors and birds being killed by the blades of the turbines. They were especially opposed to the visual impact the turbines may have on tourism, as well as residential view obstructions.

"We moved here for the beauty of the locale," said Carol Gresslin. "If your neighbor or the person across the street puts up a windmill, they get the benefit of saving on electricity and we get the eyesore. Is there some way to make them small, disguise them, whatever? Solar panels and things like that are just ugly. If you want it, you look at, but I shouldn't have to look at it. You should disguise it some way so that it isn't visible."

Many noted that residents can take advantage of the Town of Estes Park's Light and Power Department's option of purchasing renewable energy credits for a few dollars a month, rather than purchasing residential turbines. Through the program, customers can purchase the credits and claim that all their electricity is derived from the Medicine Bow Wind Farm in Wyoming.

"Wind energy, renewable energy is a good idea," said Jim McCormick. "The question I have is, what gives me the right to impose upon my neighbor? And that's where I come up short on this. We don't need personal wind turbines. Everybody that buys their power from the Town of Estes has a wind turbine that's accessible to them. All they have to do... is sign up for wind power and you can go to sleep tomorrow night knowing that your house is powered by the wind."

Frank Theis noted that the technology is changing daily for residential wind turbines, citing the small vertical wind turbines that have recently become available. One resident said that he would rather see wind energy in the community than utility wires.

Much discussion centered around the inefficiency versus the efficiency of the horizontal wind turbines, what to do if the units are left in disrepair and if the nature of the wind in the Estes Valley works to the advantage or disadvantage of having such a device.

"If you have wind generation on your own property, you're still likely to have some connection to the grid," said Mayor Bill Pinkham. "As it was pointed out, our wind energy reliability here is -- we go from no wind to 60 miles an hour in a flash."

Pinkham noted the high cost and the low possibility that too many homeowners in the Estes Valley would be purchasing the horizontal wind turbines.

"From my perspective...," said Pinkham, "the people buying wind generators and installing them on their own property are going to be a relatively limited number of individuals."

Pinkham pointed out that Platte River Power Authority, which provides energy from the Medicine Bow Wind Farm to Estes Park Light and Power, plans to double the amount of renewable energy credits. To inquire about renewable energy credits from Estes Park Light and Power, call 577-3581.


Source: http://www.eptrail.com/ci_1...

AUG 19 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/21793-temporary-moratorium-in-place-on-turbines-to-allow-public-feedback
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