Wind turbine discussions blown up again in AftonDiscussions over Afton’s wind energy ordinance came blowing back into the city recently.
By: Amber Kispert-Smith, Woodbury Bulletin
Discussions over Afton’s wind energy ordinance came blowing back into the city recently.
The Afton Planning Commission made revisions to the ordinance at its Oct. 4 meeting and presented those changes to the Afton City Council during its Oct. 19 meeting last week.
“I think we cleaned the ordinance up I believe,” Planning Commission chair Barb Ronningen said. “Hopefully it will meet with everyone’s approval.”
The Afton City Council approved the wind energy ordinance, which regulates wind turbines, in June.
The ordinance regulates residential-style wind turbines based on height, noise levels, zone and setback.
Blowing back and forth
Even though the council approved the ordinance, council members had some concerns over some of the regulations and language.
The Planning Commission had originally recommended that turbines would be regulated to no more than 200 feet, but the council lowered that to 135 feet.
“My thing has always been the height,” Mayor Pat Snyder said. “I still think it’s too tall.”
The council had also expressed concerns about noise levels, signage and acreage minimums, which is why the ordinance was sent, back to the Planning Commission for review.
During the Planning Commissions’ Oct. 4 meeting, commissioners discussed the council’s concerns.
“We need to meet the issues the council raised,” Ronningen said.
In terms of height, the Planning Commission had to amend the ordinance so that the definition of height, hub plus blade, reflected the council’s changes.
In terms of noise levels, the City Council had originally requested that language be incorporated to state that an acoustical engineer should perform noise level readings. However, commissioner Mark Nelson informed the council that an “acoustical engineer” is someone who inspects sound systems.
The Planning Commission ultimately decided to eliminate any reference of a certified person performing the sound reading and just leave it up to the property owner to perform.
The ordinance states that sound levels cannot exceed 65 decibels from 7 a.m.-10 p.m. and 55 decibels from 10 p.m.-7 a.m. measured at the property line. State statute requires that noise levels cannot exceed 80 decibels at the nearest residence.
Commissioner Dick Bend said the city should not be too specific in terms of noise level reading because the readings are all relative.
“The noise depends on the lay of the land,” he said. “There's a lot of variables here.”
The Planning Commission also discussed the City Council’s concerns over whether or not signage would be allowed.
Previously the ordinance referenced the city’s sign ordinance for regulations, but the City Council felt that allowed for too much signage.
After some discussion it was agreed upon that no signage would be allowed on the turbines other than the manufacturers name or logo and warning signs if necessary.
Lastly, the Planning Commission had to amend staff error is which the words “commercial” were left in the ordinance even though the Planning Commission had directed that all references be left out.
Afton does not want to allow for commercial turbines, which is why the ordinance regulates that no turbine should exceed 40 kilowatts.
However, the Planning Commission wanted to make the restriction stronger, so they added in language that explicitly states that no commercial turbines are allowed.
Ready for a hearing
The City Council said last Tuesday it did not find any issue with the ordinance that the Planning Commission presented.
The Planning Commission intends to have a public hearing on the revised ordinance at next month’s meeting.