Chesterton Tribune

Porter BZA approves variance for windmill

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The agenda said Pinkerton Oil Co. at 75 E. U.S. 20 was seeking a zoning variance to permit the installation of a windmill having a height of 120 feet.

What the Porter Board of Zoning Appeals approved Wednesday was a 120-foot windmill tower plus the 11 foot-long rotors increasing the structure’s total height. The rotor-assembly diameter itself may not exceed 31 feet.

According to adjacent East Oak Hill Road neighbors Bob and Karen Kenney, the lone remonstrators, that’s not fair.

Karen Pisowicz, an Ed McDashowicz Drive neighbor, spoke in favor of the windmill proposed by Pinkerton property owners Bob and Maria Poparad. Their petition was brought by attorney Bob Welsh.

Conditions were attached to the BZA’s 3-1 approval with Greg Stinson absent. Board members Ken Timm, Elka Nelson and Lorain Bell were in favor; president Henry Huyser voted no.

Welsh said Pinkerton will use the windmill to generate electricity to help operate the fuel-oil business. “Is it really a practical difficulty that you can’t use the property without it?” asked Huyser, who said noise was an additional concern.

The BZA’s motion included that sound emitting from the windmill may not exceed 60 decibels at the Pinkerton property line. BZA attorney Laura Frost said the condition must be a written commitment recorded prior to windmill construction.

Required findings of fact supporting the BZA’s decision and listing all conditions related to it will be adopted next month, said Frost.

The windmill needed a variance because the Porter zoning ordinance limits the height of accessory structures to 18 feet. Commented Bell, “This is a first for us but it won’t be the last. I think this is something we have to be accustomed to and do something with an ordinance that allows these (alternative energy devices).”

From the audience, resident Debbie Bowen asked, “Is what you’re saying everybody can put a windmill up?” Huyser said the public comment portion of the meeting was closed.

At Bell’s suggestion town planner Jim Mandon agreed to convene a workshop of BZA and Plan Commission members to begin work on an ordinance to regulate devices like windmills and solar panels.

Advised Mandon, “You can allow it but you have to put conditions on it. We need to have regulations to protect people who live near potential sites like this.”

Welsh said the Pinkerton windmill will be placed southwest of the retail fuel pumps on the 13-acre site in a clearing in woods so the first 75 feet of the tower will be obscured by trees. He also noted there is 165 feet between the tower and the fuel pumps and an equally safe distance from the tower to other structures on the property and beyond it.

Welsh said the three-leg lattice tower is rated for 126 mph winds, will be installed on concrete piers, doesn’t require aviation warning lights, and won’t allow advertising or cause a flickering effect on the ground due to the blades’ slow rotation.

“Hopefully, there is no significant downside to this,” Welsh told the BZA, emphasizing that the existing taller communications towers to the east near Indiana 49 have posed no problems.

Bob Kenney said the top of the windmill will be very observable despite the woods. NIPSCO won’t generate less electricity because of the windmill, he added, and it’s ironic that a company that sells fossil fuel wants to use less of it. The only benefits will be to Pinkerton, said Kenney, and the tower could harm birds. “How many endangered or protected birds will be killed?”

Karen Kenney said she’s not against alternative energy but the windmill will not be aesthetically pleasing. Welsh said the structure will be about 500 feet away from the Kenneys’ home and the windmill won’t result in a loss of value for surrounding properties.

In other business, the BZA determined that James and Jill Pawlicki don’t need zoning variances to tear down a non-conforming home and build a new structure on a non-conforming lot with inadequate frontage at 650 Johnson St. Mandon said town code addresses non-conforming lots of record if certain conditions apply and in the Pawlicki case, variances aren’t needed.

The couple withdrew their petition and the BZA voted that their application fee be refunded.

A public hearing was set for Oct. 19 for Douglas Leicht, who requires a variance to replace a fence in the front yard on a corner lot at 110 Wagner Rd. An additional variance for the fence height will be needed.


Posted 9/22/2011