Bulletin editorial: Is Cottage Grove council just blowing hot air on wind policy?City Council members should not bow to neighbor complaints that by the city’s own ordinance have no bearing on a decision on Werner Electric Supply's proposed wind turbine. They should grant Werner’s park-boundary variance request and support this local business’s attempt to invest in its Cottage Grove operation.
By: Staff, South Washington County Bulletin
Three years ago the Cottage Grove City Council revised its wind turbine ordinance, allowing turbines in some residential and commercial situations so long as they meet strict guidelines.
It was a sign that the city was embracing reasonable use of the renewable energy source.
Since the policy was adopted in late 2009, two wind turbine proposals have been brought forward. City staff and advisory commission members gave both proposals their blessing after thorough review.
Then the proposals hit stiff City Council headwinds.
The first request, for a turbine on residential property, met all regulations and was slowed only after a neighboring property owner objected, citing the threat to surrounding land values. Then, late in the process, concern was raised over noise, but the council ultimately — and correctly — abided by its own ordinance and approved the project.
Now, will it do the same with the latest proposal? That is not clear.
As the Bulletin reported (see page 1A), for a second time council members delayed a vote last week on Werner Electric Supply’s planned 114-foot wind turbine at its facility on 95th Street, west of Highway 61.
This delay is unnecessary.
Werner wants to install the wind turbine to help power its facility. The project meets requirements set out in city ordinance with one exception: it is too close to a boundary with Hamlet Park. As a result, the business is seeking a variance. City staff recommended approval of the variance, and three city commissions agreed. Among those three was the parks commission. To make clear: Even the volunteer commission charged with looking out for the city’s parks was OK with the turbine being closer to Hamlet Park than the ordinance allows.
While that technically is the only glitch in Werner’s otherwise clean request, it does not appear to be the issue that has slowed a decision on the project.
Instead, what seems to be causing council foot-dragging is blowback from residents who live nearby. They just don’t want to look at a wind turbine and claim their property values could be harmed.
It’s certainly reasonable to be concerned about what may show up within eyesight from your backyard. In this case, however, the addition of a wind turbine would hardly ruin these residents’ patio view. Their homes along Harkness Avenue look out over Werner’s well-kept building and parking lot — and over the surrounding industrial park, where there are undeveloped lots and large dirt piles. This isn’t a pristine natural area beyond the backyard border.
The residents have a right to speak against the proposal, but the ordinance does not require that neighbors approve. Yet, council members appear to be trying to placate those concerns by pushing Werner to move the turbine to another area of its property.
That’s curious because not only does the second location get the turbine no farther from the park boundary, but it’s not even something Werner wants. (The company’s analysis concluded that the second site would be less efficient due to different wind patterns.)
Council members should not bow to neighbor complaints that by the city’s own ordinance have no bearing on a decision. They should grant Werner’s park-boundary variance request and support this local business’s attempt to invest in its Cottage Grove operation.