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A fool’s mission

In to the Wind

December 21, 2010
Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Sometimes a champion for a cause can become an unpopular person, especially amongst those people who are against the cause.

It seems your weekly columnist found himself in just such a situation recently.

It was postured in this column that perhaps the Toledo City Council, the mayor and city attorney were tilting at windmills when they caused the council to adopt a resolution that effectively banned residential and business wind generators within the city of Toledo.

I was taken to task by a person I considered a friend regarding my column. I was told, “You shouldn’t have written something like that, that made Tama / Toledo look bad.” They went on to tell me I had it all wrong and I should just go talk to the mayor and get it straightened out.

OK, maybe I did get it wrong. Maybe my reading abilities aren’t what they used to be. Perhaps my ability to reason has been damaged by too many brutal winters here at Gilly Hollow. If that is the case, I’ll apologize and even retract everything I’ve said, right here in this space. Here’s how we’ll handle it. I’ll extract just two parts of the resolution as passed by the Toledo City Council. You read it and decide if this is tantamount to an outright ban. If I hear from more readers that I have it all wrong, than from readers telling me I have it right, the retraction will be forthcoming. My contact information can be found at the bottom of this column.

The resolution, as passed by the Toledo City Council, had some definitions in section II. For clarity, I’ll tell you what one acronym used extensively in the document means. The document uses the term SWECS. By the definition in the document, it means Small Wind Energy Conversion System – a small wind generator.

Here are some quotes from the ordinance; you are the judge:

Section III.4.a “… Building mounted SWECS shall be prohibited on any parcel or lot containing a one (1) or two (2) family use.”

By my reading, this seems to ban house mounted wind generators from single family houses or from duplexes. In itself, this doesn’t ban them on commercial buildings, only 99 percent of family dwellings. That wording comes later.

Section IV.3.a “The minimum lot size for a freestanding SWECS shall be one (1) acre.”

Section IV.3.b “The minimum lot size for a building mounted SWECS shall be one (1) acre for any building mounted SWECS to be mounted on a building of less than five (5) stories in height.”

Section IV.3.c “There shall be no minimum lot size for building mounted SWECS to be mounted on buildings of five (5) stories in height.

As the resolution was passed, you couldn’t have a wind generator in Toledo unless you had an acre or more of land. As far as I know, there are no one acre lots in Toledo and certainly no buildings over five stories!

When I received a copy of the resolution as passed by the Toledo City Council, it didn’t take much reading for me to figure out this was an out and out ban of wind generators in the city. That is what prompted my “Tilting at windmills” column, and my presence at the next council meeting. It should be noted too I have no ongoing issues with the mayor or council either, in fact I’m friends with a couple of them.

By law a resolution has to have three (3) public hearings before it is adopted as an ordinance. If there is no dissension at the first hearing, the council can waive the other two hearings and adopt the resolution as an ordinance.

Fortunately for anybody wanting to build a wind generator in Toledo there was dissension at the first hearing. There was a small group of people present wanting the City Council to listen to reason.

Sensibility did prevail at the meeting. The council voted to table the resolution, and formed a committee to come back with a more workable document for the council meeting scheduled for January 24, 2011. That gives the committee a month to work out a better document.

I can’t tell you for sure if the actual intention of the council was to affect an outright ban on wind generators. I think instead they just didn’t read it, or if they did, not well. In fact, at the meeting, when the sparks were flying, Nancy Burke, Toledo City Attorney stated, “I’m not certain everybody even read it.”

Those who will not read have NO advantage over those who can not read.

There is a groundswell of support for renewable energy in our country. It is a directive of the President of the United States, the Governor of Iowa, and any other free thinking person.

Very soon the technology will be advanced to the point a residential wind generator will be cost effective. It might make sense for those who have the right property to install such a device.

Residential and small commercial wind generators aren’t these hulking devices like you see in the big wind farms. No, they have vanes smaller in diameter than the arm span of an adult. They can be small, efficient, and help decrease our reliance on fossil fuels.

Once the price point reaches a level where the payback is five or six years, more people will and should install them.

So to my friend, I didn’t do anything to make the city look bad, they did it themselves. I just became a champion for a cause in which I believe. If there is anything I will get more passionate about than any cause, it is the US Constitution and freedom of speech. Censorship for the sake of harmony is a fool’s mission.

Until next time—

In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2010 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342

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