A long discussion led to little action in regards to wind turbines within city limits during a meeting of the Stephenville City Council’s Planning and Development Committee Tuesday.
The committee did agree, in a 3-1 vote, to forward a recommendation to the city council to prohibit turbines in the city limits for the time being.
The decision came after City Administrator Mark Kaiser and Mayor Nancy Hunter implored the committee to make a decision to bring the more than year long debate to an end.
In August 2008, the council voted unanimously to put a 180-day moratorium on the issuance of building permits for wind turbines and sent the issue to P&Z for further review. The P&Z reported their findings to the council in May and presented the proposed ordinance, which was the topic of Tuesday’s meeting.
Kaiser said it is obvious the council remains divided on the issue, but also said he sees the issue as time sensitive since at least one local business owner wants to install a turbine.
“If we are going to prohibit (turbines in the city), let’s get on with it,” Kaiser said. “Due to the concerns, I would suggest the committee make a recommendation (to the council) to prohibit. If there are not enough votes (from the council) to prohibit, the ordinance can be referred back to P&Z for revisions.”
After a suggestion that more time and research should be spent on the topic, Hunter said the citizens deserved a decision no later than the end of the year.
“The time is now,” Hunter said. “We need to make a decision.”
Some of the problems for council members wanting to prohibit the towering structures ranged from issues with the proposed ordinance, lack of information on the most current wind technology, safety of the structures and the effect, aesthetically and economically, on neighboring properties.
The ordinance states for roof mounted installations, maximum height should not exceed 35 feet from the ground to the top of the system.
Hunter asked if the limitation would allow the turbines to produce, to which Charles Crumpley, of Dallas-based WeKnow Technologies, answered, “No - only in flat farmland.”
Council member Joe Cude pointed out that “Stephenville is in a hole,” and said a productive turbine would have to be mounted on a “good sized pole.”
Committee chairman Scott Evans said although he did not want to prohibit turbines, he could not support the ordinance.
“Approving the ordinance means we would be putting up turbines that won’t work, due mainly to height. We need to take a closer look,” Evans said.
Crumpley said the company has installed 325 turbines in Texas and Oklahoma and in just over two years has seen no problems.
Councilman Alan Nash said although one company could say they have seen no threats to public health and safety, the job of the council is to address all potential turbine installations and all might not be as trustworthy.
For councilman Russ McDanel, the sight of turbines is not something he would want in his back yard and said the city has an ordinance prohibiting unsightly billboards in residential areas and should consider the view and potential impact on property values.
“I support renewable energy, but there are 180 cities in Texas that prohibit turbines and that speaks very loudly,” McDanel said.
Crumpley said the public will not be affected since very few sites would qualify when looking at the proposed space requirements and the proposed construction site’s wind production.
“We would be in new areas and the outskirts (of the city),” Crumpley said. “In areas where there are not a lot of trees.”