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Magnolia tables wind ordinance discussion

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GINA R. HEINE
April 11, 2008
— Town of Magnolia officials decided it was better to clear up potential issues with a draft wind ordinance rather than rush to a vote.

The planning and zoning board voted 5-0 on Thursday night to table until May 8 its discussion on a proposal that would regulate wind turbines. A moratorium on wind energy systems remains in place until July.


More than 30 people turned out for the meeting, which included a public hearing on the draft ordinance.


The draft ordinance proposes wind turbines be placed at least a half mile from homes and other inhabited structures and at least 1,000 feet from property lines.


More than a dozen people spoke, many of them urging board members not to vote quickly on an ordinance they wouldn’t feel is fully defendable in court.


The draft was copied almost entirely from the Town of Union Wind Study Committee’s draft ordinance, but because it has not yet been approved in the town of Union, Magnolia residents urged cautioned until all questions are answered.


The state allows an ordinance to regulate wind energy systems based on health and safety issues only. The Town of Union Wind Study Committee members said they found scientific and medical research stating such setbacks were needed.


Resident Joan Mitchell said places such as Iowa and Minnesota have acres and acres of open land for turbines, but homes are everywhere in Magnolia Township.


“This is a divisive action that’s going on in this community, and I just want to say I support what you’ve written … and I agree on it because this is a populated area,” she said. “Maybe it’s not the place for wind turbines if what you’re saying (about health and safety) is true.”


Resident Kris Benedict presented the board and audience with the Feb. 28 meeting minutes from the Town of Union Plan Commission and a letter from the commission’s lawyer Matthew Dregne explaining his review of the draft ordinance.


The letter states, “I am providing comments that I hope will help the town refine and strengthen the ordinance before proceeding to final drafting.”


“They’ve gone back to the drawing board,” Benedict said. “I don’t know why we would rush in to adopt the town of Union ordinance when they themselves have concerns about it.”


Jim Bembinster, a member of the Union study committee, was in the audience and said Dregne just wanted stronger wording and that his changes would not affect the setbacks or information in the draft ordinance.


The town of Union’s ordinance still needs revision and review, and a public hearing likely won’t be until the plan commission’s May meeting, said Al Francis, Town of Union Plan Commission chairman.


“It’s quite a ways from being finished, in Union anyway,” he said.


After a brief discussion, the Magnolia planning and zoning board decided to table the discussion until more information is available. Board member Steve Earleywine said Magnolia’s attorney didn’t have any concerns about defending the ordinance but said it wouldn’t hurt to make it stronger.



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