Wind turbine ordinance fails 3-3
By Kurt Nesbitt
The Post-Bulletin, Austin MN
As the turbine turns/How they voted
How they voted
John P. Martin:Absent
Austin's wind turbine regulations are making another circle.
The Austin City Council voted 3-3 on the proposed regulations, effectively defeating the revised law on its second reading and sending it back to the drawing board.
Community Development Director Craig Hoium, who proposed the law, said, "It's back to the drawing board."
Council members were split on one issue - whether or not to allow wind turbines in residential areas.
"I can articulate no argument opposing it," said council member Steve King, who began the discussion. "But I've had lots of phone calls. People just don't want it."
And on that basis, King announced he would not support the ordinance.
Council member-at-large Janet Anderson noted that the latest draft of the ordinance allows for a conditional-use permit process, which would allow for decisions on applications based upon the application's own merits.
"I think there's some confusion," she said. "Not all wind turbines are similar to what we see out in the country."
Planning Commissioner Jim Mino explained the proposed ordinance, which the commission passed last month.
"I think the standards are reasonable, but strict," said Mino, referring to noise standards that limit wind turbines to 50 decibels during the day and 45 decibels at night.
But city council member Dick Pacholl supported the ordinance in its most recent form. Pacholl also supported the conditional-use permit for the same reason as Anderson. He said Riverland Community College and local high schools could benefit from the law.
"Let's face it. Most people couldn't put one up in the first place," he said.
Council member Jeff Austin also agreed with Anderson: he also thinks there is a lot of misrepresentation and also likes the conditional-use permit process.
"Not everyone is going to go out and get one," he said.
But Brian McAlister disagreed.
"This is very much like the outdoor furnaces," he said. "People's reasons for opposing this won't be rational. They will be personal. It only takes one to get this started. After you pass the ordinance, it will be too late to say 'You can't do this'. You would have to base it on the ordinance. Putting it in residential areas is a bad idea. I will be voting 'No'."
The Rev. Marv Repinsky was the only member of the public to speak at the meeting. He said he supported the ordinance because he believes it will take Austin in the right direction.
"It's a small smidgeon of where we need to go as a society. I would like Austin to be a headlight instead of a taillight," he said.
After the vote was taken, council members generally agreed that an ordinance is needed.