Chesterton Tribune

Porter BZA sets hearing on windmill September 21

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A request to erect a 120-foot windmill to generate electricity for Pinkerton Oil at 75 East U.S. 20 advanced to public hearing Sept. 21.

The petition prompted Porter town planner Jim Mandon to recommend the town adopt an ordinance putting conditions on the installation and use of alternative-energy devices.

While windmills, wind turbines, solar panels and similar structures should be encouraged, Mandon told the Board of Zoning Appeals on Wednesday, their design, location, operation, sound emitted and visual aesthetics all need to be reviewed.

Bob and Maria Poparad, owners of the Pinkerton Oil property on the south side of U.S. 20 between Indiana 49 and Waverly Road, want to locate the windmill at the front of a tree line beyond a small block building, according to their attorney Bob Welsh.

The 20-kW windmill would be at least 300 feet from the nearest business and 430 feet from the nearest home, he added.

BZA member Greg Stinson, chairing the meeting in the absence of president Henry Huyser, asked whether the windmill could topple and strike a Pinkerton fueling station near the company’s offices and yard. Welsh said more-exact measurements will be provided next month.

Member Elka Nelson questioned the windmill’s sound level. Welsh replied the noise factor at its base is compared to listening to an air conditioner.

Member Lorain Bell inquired if the proposed windmill is a preliminary step and Poparad may want a taller one in the future. Poparad said no, 120 feet is the tallest of the small sizes; next would be a commercial wind turbine.

Welsh said the reason Poparad is before the BZA is because Porter’s zoning ordinance doesn’t address windmills and the like. The ordinance does however limit accessory structures to 18 feet in height so a developmental standards variance is being sought.

After the 4-0 vote setting the public hearing, Mandon detailed a list of concerns BZA members should consider prior to the Sept. 21 meeting. Welsh was provided with a copy.

Mandon said his review of ordinances from several communities shows many things need to be addressed including banning advertising on windmills, minimizing the shadow-flicker of the blades, requiring monopoles instead of a tripod base and that the structure be torn down if abandoned.

Even if the Porter Plan Commission recommends a windmill ordinance to the Town Council and one is adopted, said Mandon, petitioners still could seek a variance from its provisions like Poparad is doing from the zoning ordinance.

Despite the fact alternative-energy structures aren’t specifically addressed there now, added Mandon, “You’d definitely want to put conditions on a request like this if you were inclined to grant a variance.”

Porter director of engineering and development Matt Keiser asked if the BZA wants town department heads to meet as a Technical Advisory Committee to review Poparad’s petition. The consensus was no TAC meeting is needed.



Posted 8/18/2011