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Our view -- CG council: follow your own rules on turbine

In April, the Cottage Grove City Council made the city's wind turbine requirements more stringent to prepare for the residents and businesses that would likely begin asking to place the alternative energy sources on their properties.

This fall, a resident applied to place a wind turbine on his property that meets those requirements.

We have a simple suggestion for the council: follow the rules you just made and approve the man's application.

You might be wondering why approval would even be a question -- after all, the planning commission overwhelmingly (8 to 1) recommended approval of the proposal for a 113-foot turbine on rural residential property at 6749 Geneva Ave.

Two arguments have come up against the turbine proposal that caused the council to table a vote on whether to approve it until its Jan. 6 meeting.

The first is one from John Bailey of Bailey Nurseries, which owns the vacant land across the street from the proposed turbine. He says a turbine would lower the land's property value. Bailey and city officials envision a housing development on the land.

His evidence that his property value would decline? He and Community Development Director Howard Blin collectively talked to three Realtors who lack any experience selling near wind turbines, but are pretty sure the property value would go down.

The National Realtors Association differs with this conclusion.

In its "Field Guide to Wind Farms and their Effect on Property Values," a collection of studies on the issue, the association concludes "wind farms appear to have a minimal or at most transitory impact on real estate." The author of a Berkeley Lab study on the issue was quoted in a news release saying, "Neither the view of wind energy facilities nor the distance of the home to those facilities was found to have any consistent, measurable, and significant effect on the selling prices of nearby homes."

And this study is in reference to wind farms with more and larger turbines than what is proposed, so we can fairly assume the impact of this proposal would be the same or less.

The second argument came from Blin at the council meeting -- that at top speeds the proposed turbine could generate slightly more noise than is allowed at night under city ordinances.

City officials brought up no concerns about noise to the planning commission, but at the council meeting Blin said the turbine could generate 59 decibels of noise (almost equivalent to the sound of normal conversation) at the property line if going at top speed, which is within the city's daytime limits, but exceeds its nighttime limit of 50 decibels.

There are a few reasons to doubt any noise generated by this turbine would be bothersome to neighbors.

In an average year, the wind turbine would be going this fast about 10 percent of the year, according to John Kooyman, the resident requesting the turbine. At those times when the wind turbine is going the fastest, it's likely the howl of the wind and the sound of it blowing through the trees would be louder than the turbine itself.

To put this in perspective, 60 decibels is about as loud as an air conditioner that's 100 feet away -- a common noise in the city. It's unlikely this would bother any future neighbors, but even if it did, the proposed windmill could be set so it would lock at higher wind speeds.

We won't speculate on why a city would put unnecessary roadblocks in front of a resident who is trying to generate some clean energy -- an honorable goal, that hopefully more of us will reach for.

We'll simply re-state: you made the rules, now follow them.