The city’s planning commissioners recommended this week that proposed language for a renewable energy ordinance be approved by city council members, who are expected to consider the proposal Tuesday night. The council meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at City Hall, 405 E. Colby.
The ordinance, if approved, would regulate renewable energy sources for residential, commercial and industrial properties. The ordinance’s purpose is to promote the “safe, effective and efficient use” of renewable energy sources, to lessen potential adverse impact they may have on residential areas through location and noise limitations, and to avoid potential damage to adjacent properties.
Whitehall’s proximity to the winds blowing off White Lake and growing interest among some in the area, highlighted by a community group called White Lake Innovative Natural Development Solutions (WINDS), seem to represent a need for such an ordinance.
City staff and planning commissioners have been working on and debating the ordinance language for about six months.
“A lot of effort has been put into this,” said Mayor Mac Hatch. “Anything to do with renewable energy is good.”
Joyce Brownell, a Whitehall resident and member of the WINDS group, credited the city’s planning commissioners for setting up an ordinance and recognizing the “possibility and probability” that use of renewable energy may increase. David Roodvoets, a Montague resident who used to work for Dow Chemical and is a member of the group, offered ordinance language suggestions for the planning commission.
Brownell said the planning commission made “great strides” with the ordinance, but the group is disappointed that more specific items weren’t addressed in the ordinance, especially the noise level. The group’s purpose is to inform and educate local residents, businesses and governments in Whitehall and Montague on “green” technologies and practices.
Brownell said the group was pushing for the ordinance to include a decibel maximum level of 45, a relatively low number that the group hoped would help drive manufacturers to make units that meet that restriction.
The setback requirement in the proposed ordinance specifies that units must be a distance not less than 1.1 times the height of the equipment, as measured from the base to the tallest point.
The proposed ordinance calls for all exterior renewable energy equipment, such as wind turbines and solar devices, to require a zoning or special use permit. For private use, renewable energy applications will be allowed as an accessory use in residential, commercial and industrial districts.
For commercial applications, units may be allowed by special use permit only in general industrial zoning districts on parcels no less than 20 acres. In the industrial district, devices such as wind turbines may not exceed 200 feet in height.