Wind turbine ordinance back for second vote

By Kurt Nesbitt

The Post-Bulletin, Austin MN

Wind turbine turmoil

What is happening:Austin's proposed wind turbine ordinance is scheduled for a vote tonight by the Austin City Council.

Why it matters:The proposed ordinance has drawn complaints from some Austin residents, who are concerned that wind turbines may negatively affect property values, and comments from residents who support wind energy for the environmental and educational benefits they believe it will bring to the community.

What is next:The Austin City Council will vote on the ordinance at its regular meeting at 5:30 p.m. today.

The Austin City Council will have another vote on the proposed wind turbine regulations on Monday night.

As it reads, the proposed ordinance would allow small wind turbines - which are technically referred to as wind energy conversion systems, or WECS - in all parts of the city with a conditional use permit. Large WECS would be permitted in agricultural and industrial areas only.

The proposed regulations are back on the city council agenda because the council held the vote over at its last meeting on April 5, when city attorney David Hoversten advised the council to wait before voting since the entire council was not present. Council member John P. Martin was absent.


In the past, proposals have failed on technicalities or have been tabled for more study. The April 5 vote technically was the first reading of the latest draft of the regulations. Monday's vote is considered the second reading.

Austin has an ordinance that requires a unanimous vote for a proposed ordinance to pass on its first reading. That ordinance says a simple majority is needed for adoption on a second reading. An earlier version of the wind turbine regulations received a majority vote from the council but technically failed to pass because the vote was not unanimous.

City officials have twice reworked the ordinance, which would allow wind turbines in many areas within the city limits, if passed. They have debated which standards are acceptable on both the planning commission and city council levels. The ordinance has been the subject of nine city meetings since it was first proposed at the end of 2009. The city has enacted three temporary bans on construction of wind turbines - including one that is still in place - while it researched and rewrote the proposed ordinance.

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