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County sends back small wind turbine regulations amendment

Citing the need for more information, the Albany County Commissioners have sent a proposed amendment to the county's regulations on small wind energy systems back to the county planning and zoning commission.

Citing the need for more information, the Albany County Commissioners have sent a proposed amendment to the county's regulations on small wind energy systems back to the county planning and zoning commission.

On Tuesday, county commissioners Tim Chesnut, Jerry Kennedy and Tim Sullivan refused to vote "aye" or "nay" on a motion to amend the county's small, non-commerical wind energy systems that would change the allowable height of wind turbines, their distance from property lines and their sound level.

Instead, they referred the motion to the Albany County Planning and Zoning Commission for further discussion, even though it had recommended the commissioners pass the motion.

Referring to the public comments, Chesnut said he would like to have more discussion so the commissioners don't approve an amendment that makes the county's regulations too restrictive.

"I really wouldn't want to be more restrictive than the city, because we have wide open land," he said. "I want more information before passing this."

Chesnut said strict regulations would be more appropriate in the one mile area around Laramie that the city council and county commissioners manage jointly.

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Citing the need for more information, the Albany County Commissioners have sent a proposed amendment to the county's regulations on small wind energy systems back to the county planning and zoning commission.

On Tuesday, county commissioners Tim Chesnut, Jerry Kennedy and Tim Sullivan refused to vote "aye" or "nay" on a motion to amend the county's small, non-commerical wind energy systems that would change the allowable height of wind turbines, their distance from property lines and their sound level.

Instead, they referred the motion to the Albany County Planning and Zoning Commission for further discussion, even though it had recommended the commissioners pass the motion.

Referring to the public comments, Chesnut said he would like to have more discussion so the commissioners don't approve an amendment that makes the county's regulations too restrictive.

"I really wouldn't want to be more restrictive than the city, because we have wide open land," he said. "I want more information before passing this."

Chesnut said strict regulations would be more appropriate in the one mile area around Laramie that the city council and county commissioners manage jointly.

Sullivan agreed, saying the amendment might be too restrictive for large properties in the rural areas of the county.

"This is applicable for high-density subdivisions, as opposed to wide-open spaces," he said. "If I have 35 acres, who would care, unless they put it right on my fence line and my neighbor lives right next door to me."

In addition, Sullivan said he would like the county's regulations to be broad enough in scope to encompass the newer wind turbines.

"You always think of the old-fashioned wind mills," he said. "But, if they're going to be a vertical or if they're going to be an encased system, they're completely different."

The county's regulations define a small wind energy system as one that has a rated capacity of 25 kilowatts (KW) and is for noncommercial use.

Currently, the regulations allow for a height of 50 feet above grade, excluding the turbine and rotors, County Planner David Gertsch said.

The proposed amendment would change the regulations to include the turbine and rotors in the total height.

The current regulations say a small wind energy system has to be 200 feet from the nearest residence on an adjacent property, Gertsch said.

The proposed amendment would reduce the distance to 150 feet from all property lines.

Sullivan said he agreed with the setback being 150 feet from property lines to keep a person's wind turbine from falling onto another's land.

Lastly, the proposed amendment would lower the allowed sound level from 60 decibels from the nearest inhabited dwelling on an adjacent property to 55 decibels from all property lines.

"The reason behind this is one of the planning and zoning commissioners went out ... and listened to one of the turbines," Gertsch said. "He just kind of backed up until he felt like that was comfortable noise level for him."

While he admitted the amendment would make the regulations more restrictive, Gertsch said they were reviewed and approved by the planning and zoning commission.

"It was a unanimous vote by them," he said.

When asked why the regulations limit the height of small wind energy systems to 50 feet, Gertsch said the previous planner came up with that number.

"I'm sure that Doug (Bryant), when he was here, did his research," he said. "That's the typical height for most of them that are in the more smaller-lotted areas."

During the public hearing, two people spoke out against the amendment while another spoke in its favor.

Mike Stoesz, 3401 Juniper Drive, said the amendment would unfairly include some of the newer wind turbines that are constructed differently than the classic design.

"Not all wind energy systems are created equal," he said. "There are horitzonal ones with blades, there are horizontal ones that look like fans ... and there are vertical ones, like the one on our building (at 213 Grand) downtown ... that are helical and spin vertically."

The current county regulations are more restrictive than the city's, Stoesz said, which doesn't make sense since the lot sizes in the rural parts of the county are much larger than the city.

"We are suggesting that the county adopt a code similar to or identical to the city's Unified Development Code," he said. "The city allows a maximum tower height of 75 feet above grade. The setbacks in the city that are allowed are equal to the tower height from a public road, utility line or property line."

Stoesz said the county's regulations should be based on the specifications of each wind turbine instead of a generalized formula.

John Nelson said a 25 KW wind turbine has a blade span of 40 feet, thereby putting its blades too close to the ground under the proposed amendment.

"I have a ... 3 KW generator," he said. "Its blade span is 15 feet."

He said manufacturers recommend that tower hubs be at least 20-30 feet higher than anything within 200 feet.

"A 50-foot tower, if you have any trees on your property, isn't going to do it," he said.

Nelson said the county staff needs to do more research on wind towers before coming back to the commissioners with the amendment.

Centennial resident Jim Hardekopf said while he isn't against wind turbines, he supports the amendment.

He said the 150-foot setback would keep noise pollution from neighboring residences.

"It makes for a more amicable relationship with your neighbors," he said.

Hardekopf also said wind turbines can throw ice from their blades, and some even throw their blades if they break apart.

"They do come apart," he said. "I've got pictures of small wind turbines where some blades came off of it and threw it quite a distance away."


Source: http://www.laramieboomerang...

MAR 2 2011
http://www.windaction.org/posts/30217-county-sends-back-small-wind-turbine-regulations-amendment
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