Wind

Northfield News file photo
Northfield News file photo

At the moment, you can’t build a wind turbine inside Northfield’s city limits. Our ordinances say nothing about turbines; our current ordinances presume that if a use is not listed as permitted, it is not allowed.

Today’s Northfield News has a story Carleton may add second turbine about the Council action on Monday directing city staff to begin work on a wind turbine ordinance to enable permitting of wind turbines.

I voted against the request – not because I’m not interested in pursuing alternative energy for Northfield, but because of how/why the request was made.  Carleton asked the City to place this ordinance at the front of the line to enable them to meet a private deadline for ordering a wind turbine.

My concerns:

1. Who takes the risk? Fast-tracking this ordinance for Carleton also creates the expectation that the turbine will be approved.   What happens if the City approves an aordinance which states that only small wind will be allowed within the City limits?  Then Carleton will have invested millions and not be able to erect their turbine.  What if the City adopts an ordinance which places siting restrictions on large turbines which prevents Carleton from siting their turbine as they would like?  Carleton’s push tends to push the City to write an ordinance for Carleton which might be good, but might be inappropriate for the community as a whole.

2. Time. Northfield adopted a new and vastly improved Comprehensive Plan at the end of 2008 and is now struggling (you’ll hear more about this struggle in weeks to come) to rewrite the land development ordinances to implement the goals of the Plan.   This is a huge and important undertaking.  A wind ordinance should be part of this law-making process (along with other environmental regulations about how we develop land and encourage conservation and alternative energy) where it can be considered as part of an already existing process and in the context of other, complementary regulations.

I am glad that Carleton and St Olaf are investing in wind energy and I’d like to support more private investment in alternative energy, but Carleton should work with the City as part of the land use regulation writing process rather than demanding Northfield meet their deadline.

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