COLUMBIA — Small windmills and turbines can be used in residential, office and commercial zoning districts — anywhere but The District.
The City Council passed an ordinance on Oct. 17 approving the use of these, which convert wind energy into electricity. People can use the windmills and turbines in their backyards to generate more sustainable energy, but the ordinance does not let people build wind farms or large scale wind convertors.
The application process for getting a Wind Energy Conversion System permit requires a little more paperwork and legwork than does a standard application for a building permit or planning request, according to the provisions of the ordinance.
City staff started researching wind turbines on private properties for the City Council in June 2010, when a dentist wanted to install a turbine on his practice off of Providence Road. The city code lacked a category for wind energy conversion systems.
After the draft of the code change was reviewed and revised by the city and two commissions, the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended during a Sept. 22 hearing that the City Council give final approval to the ordinance.
The Energy and Environment Commission raised concerns that residents downtown could not have wind turbines. In a Sept. 27 letter to the mayor and council, the Commission Chairman and former councilman, Karl Skala, said the city should not discriminate against downtown landowners.
“With its tall buildings and high profile, the downtown area is both a feasible and an attractive location for wind turbines," Skala said.
The council decided not to allow wind turbines downtown due to recommendations from merchants and board members of the district.
“Downtown is considered a National Historic District," Carrie Gartner, executive director of the district board, said in an email. "The board believes the wind turbines would be incompatible with its historic designation,”
Although a few citizens expressed the same concern, the ordinance passed unanimously.
Mayor Bob McDavid said the ordinance is dynamic — it will change as technology evolves.
Despite the zoning restriction, downtown businesses can appeal to the council for an amendment to the ordinance,Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe said.