Permit request triggers move to create rules for power-generating towers
Town of Fredonia officials find themselves facing a conundrum with a request by Bill Bertram to erect a wind turbine near the intersection of Jay Road and Camp Awana Road.
Bertram applied for a conditional-use permit for a 100-foot windmill, leaving Plan Commission members shocked to learn there are no regulations in the town zoning code on the power-generating structures.
Town Chairman Richard Mueller said the closest thing he could find in the town’s zoning code deals with the regulation of communication towers.
Mueller said that code “doesn’t deal with a lot of the things that should be dealt with” on wind turbines.
Instead, he got a copy of the code used by the Village of Random Lake which was prepared by Ed Ritger, who also serves as the town attorney.
In suggesting that the town craft its own windmill ordinance, Mueller said, “I think we should mirror a lot of what they have in Random Lake. We should have something in the books.
“If we let you put this up, it won’t be too long before someone else wants to do the same thing.”
Bertram said he chose a site on the property “that always seems pretty breezy.”
He said the turbine blades would extend about 10 feet above the top of the tower, with much of the structure being screened by a nearby hill.
The Endurance monopole tower would be anchored by four guy wires, and would be inspected annually. Bertram estimated the valued of the wind turbine would be about $25,000.
Compared to some of the large turbines used on wind farms, Bertram said “this is pretty small scale.”
He said the turbine would generate about 5 kilowatts of power, and the system would be connected to the regional power grid.
The town has not had any requests for wind turbine permits in recent years, and Mueller urged the commission to defer acting on Bertram’s request until an updated ordinance is in place.
One of the issues Mueller hopes to address in the ordinance would be the minimum setback from the property line.
He suggested a setback of at least 1.1 times the height of the tower, minimizing the risk of injury or damage if the structure should topple.
Bertram did not dispute the cautious approach, but added, “I don’t plan on having it fall over.”
In forming an ordinance, Mueller suggested limiting towers to 150 feet in height and only one per property.
Commission members noted that wind turbines have generated a considerable amount of controversy in other communities, with foes noting their noise, shadow flicker and threat to migrating birds.
Those issues took center stage eight years ago, when the Town of Saukville deliberated windmill regulations. The discussions in that town drew input from Riveredge Nature Center, Citizens for a Scenic Wisconsin and Focus on Energy.
Because adopting an ordinance or approving a conditional-use permit both require publishing legal notices and holding a public hearing, Mueller said Bertram was not likely to get a final authorization for his wind turbine until January.