The Missoula City Council will likely pass a ban on wind energy conversion systems – aka windmills in your backyard.
The ban would be part of the zoning ordinance update, which is being reviewed by the Plat, Annexation and Zoning committee.
An earlier draft of the zoning ordinance update contained detailed standards for small windmills that could be installed on residential lots to provide supplemental energy. Now the Planning Board is recommending that the installation of windmills be disallowed until further research and discussion can take place.
Mike Barton, senior planner at the Office of Planning and Grants (OPG), said that there has been no push by Missoula residents to build windmills, and much opposition to the idea. “The idea of wind systems was demonized right out of the gate. We decided to take it off the agenda for now, and if the City Council sees a particular urgency later on, they can deal with it then.” (To see what an urban wind turbine looks like, check out this one in San Francisco.)
Missoula is not opposed to alternative energy systems, said Barton. “The actual message is not ‘no wind systems.’ It’s no wind systems right now, and possibly wind systems when we can take the time to figure out the best way to do it.”
In light of the substantial zoning update project currently underway, he said now doesn’t seem to be the best time or context to take up those questions, which include height, noise, distance from property lines, and liability.
“This is an issue that needs to be addressed by the community, but it should be addressed separately,” said Barton. “Until then, wind energy systems should be prohibited.”
The existing zoning ordinance doesn’t address windmills at all, which OPG director Roger Millar said is not an ideal situation. If wind energy systems are not addressed — either regulated or prohibited — in the update, said Millar, the City Council will end up developing ad hoc regulations based on specific project proposals that come before them.
“We’re not closing the door on wind energy systems,” said Barton. “We’re just deferring the discussion until there’s a desire by the public to start installing them.”