Cumberland Times-News

June 2, 2009

City drafts amendment for wind turbine zoning

Hearing on measure slated Monday

Tess Hill

Municipal Planning and Zoning Commission staff report on proposed text amendment to city zoning code (PDF)

CUMBERLAND — The city of Cumberland has decided to regulate wind energy systems that might be installed within city limits.

A public hearing for a proposed zoning text amendment concerning small wind energy systems will be held at City Hall on Monday at 4 p.m.

David Umling, city planner, said the amendment was presented at the May 11 Planning Commission meeting.

“The city has no provisions for wind energy systems at all,” he said. “The proposed changes would establish standards and requirements for small wind energy systems and a prohibition on large wind energy systems.”

The amendment states that small wind energy systems will have a rated maximum output of no more than 15 kilowatts of electricity for direct consumption; large systems are considered to have a rated maximum output over 15 kilowatts.

The amendment also says that the maximum height variance will not exceed 150 feet and, if a height variance is granted by the Zoning Board of Appeals, the board is allowed to impose additional landscaping requirements along the boundaries of the property.

Other proposed rules and regulations state the lowest point swept by the rotor blades must have a clearance of at least 15 feet above the base of the supporting structure; the supporting tower will not be climbable more than 12 feet above the base; and rotor blades will be designed with nonreflected paints and materials to minimize potential flicker or strobing.

The small wind energy system will not contain any lettering, advertising or signage with the exception of any required warning signage, and will not have more than one manufacturer label bonded or painted on the device and will be appropriately designed and painted to minimize visual impacts on the area and setting.

“Each proposed small wind turbine will also be required to go in front of the Zoning Board of Appeals for approval to ensure it meets all setback requirements and any others outlined in the amendment,” Umling said.

Small wind energy systems will also have to be approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals, allowing them as a conditional use in any zoning district with the exception of the Conservation and Viewshed Protection Overlay Zones, which protects parts of Haystack and Wills mountains and Shriver Ridge from “unsightly development.”

If they are not in active production for a period of at least 12 months, the owner of the system will be required to remove the device and supporting structure from the property.

A full copy of the proposed zoning text amendment and the associated staff report are available for public view at the city’s Department of Community Development weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The department is located in the lower level of City Hall.

Contact Tess Hill at