Minutes of the Joint Meeting of the Gurnee Zoning Board of Appeals - September 15, 2010

Village of Gurnee
Joint Plan Commission & Zoning Board of Appeals Minutes
September 15, 2010


The meeting was called to order at 7:52 P.M.

Plan Commission Members Present:  Chairman James Sula, Stephen Park, Richard McFarlane,
Sharon Salmons, Patrick Drennan

Plan Commission Members Absent:  David Nordentoft, Gwen Broughton

Zoning Board of Appeals Members Present:   Chairman Tom Hood, Jerry Kolar, Robert Monahan, Richard Twitchell

Zoning Board of Appeals Members Absent: Edwin Paff, John Spadaro, Don Wilson

Other Officials Present: Bryan Winter, Village Attorney; Dave Ziegler, Community Development Director; Tracy Velkover, Planning Manager; Molly Booth, Associate Planner; Ryan Mentkowski, Associate Planner

1. a. Approval of Zoning Board of Appeals Meeting Minutes for May 26, 2010.
Mr. Monahan made a motion, seconded by Mr. Kolar, to approve the Zoning Board of Appeals Meeting Minutes for May 26, 2010. (ZBA Only)

Roll Call 
Ayes:  Hood, Kolar, Monahan, Twitchell
Nays:  None
Motion Carried: 4-0-0

1. b. Approval of Joint Plan Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals Meeting Minutes for August 4, 2010.
Mr. Park made a motion, seconded by Mr. McFarlane, to approve the Joint Plan Commission & Zoning Board of Appeals Meeting Minutes for August 4, 2010.

Roll Call
Ayes:  Drennan, McFarlane, Park, Salmons, Sula
Nays:  None
Motion Carried: 5-0-0

Mr. Monahan made a motion, seconded by Mr. Twitchell, to approve the Zoning Board of Appeals Meeting Minutes for
May 26, 2010.

Roll Call 
Ayes:  Hood, Kolar, Monahan, Twitchell
Nays:  None
Motion Carried: 4-0-0

2.  Approval of the Zoning Board of Appeal’s 2011 Meeting Schedule
Mr. Hood asked the Zoning Board members for any comments on the 2011 Zoning Board of Appeals Meeting Schedule.

Mr. Hood asked for a motion to approve.
All ayes; nays none; motion carries to accept the 2011 Zoning Board of Appeals Meeting Schedule.

3.  Continued Public Hearing:  Wind Energy Systems (Zoning Text Amendment)
Chairman Sula stated this is a Public Hearing and asked for any members of the general public who intend to either give testimony or ask questions to stand and be sworn in by the Village Attorney.

Associate Planner Ryan Mentkowski stated this is a continuation of the public hearing from the September 1, 2010 Joint Plan Commission & Zoning Board of Appeals meeting which was cancelled due to a lack of quorum for that meeting. He stated we have arrived at this point from Staff participation, Wind Energy Task Force participation, multiple workshops between the Plan Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals, and Public Hearings which took place on 8/4/10 and continued tonight.
Mr. Mentkowski stated Large Wind Energy Systems are not currently proposed as being permitted within the limits of the Village of Gurnee. He stated the focus will be on Small Wind Energy Systems which are classified as Tower Mounted and Building Mounted. He stated Building Mounted Wind Energy Systems are structurally attached onto the roof or to the side of a building and Tower Mounted Wind Energy Systems are freestanding and mounted to the ground and structurally attached to a monopole tower.  He then noted monopoles that are the horizontal type will move with the wind whereas the vertical type has one pole that is set in place taking advantage of any wind direction.

Mr. Mentkowski stated tonight’s meeting is a continuation of the previous discussions of regulations which include the total number of BWES that could be placed on a multi-family property. He stated what was proposed at the last Public Hearing was (1) one BWES per unit and prior to that was (1) one BWES per building. He stated due to new technology, Staff is recommending that for a multi-family building it would be allowed only by Special Use and not permitted by right. He clarified that (3) three units or more in a building is considered a multi-family residence.  He then noted that single-family and 2 family residential buildings would allow (1) one Building Mounted Wind Energy System by right. He stated in addition, the type of tower for a Tower Mounted Wind Energy System would only allow monopole towers to be installed. He stated the definition of plane has been revised which states front area and corner side area and involves setbacks and location. He stated Staff has also recommended the removal of the permit submittal requirements and will now have this put into the building permit.

Mr. Mentkowski stated the summary of the Ordinance is as follows:

For Building Mounted Wind Energy Systems, the total number permitted for single-family and two-family would be (1) one by Right and for multi-family it would be a Special Use.  On a non-residential building, (1) one Building Mounted Wind Energy System is allowed per 5,000 square feet of gross floor area.  Maximum height is the same for single-family, two-family and multi-family which allows15 feet above the top of roof and non-residential allow 25 feet above the top of the roof.

For Principle and Accessory Structures, Building Mounted Wind Energy Systems are allowed on accessory structures only in non-residential zoning districts. To start, at this point, if there are several requests for these on residential accessory structures Staff will come back for a text amendment so this can be addressed.

For Setback Area Encroachments, no changes were made to the previous draft Ordinance which states no encroachments into the principal setbacks for residential; cannot be in the front area which is defined as front corner side area for residential.   For Non-residential, restrictions are to be outside the setbacks and encroachment is essentially allowed in areas to the front of the building.

For the Sound Maximums (dB’s), no changes were made.  Additionally, for the Tower Mounted Limited to Monopole, no changes to maximum height were proposed and the maximum height is still based on acreage.

For the Permitted Yard Locations & Setbacks, the Tower Mounted Wind Energy System setback is 1.1 or 110% of the total height of the tower, from the ground to the tip of the blade.  The maximum number of towers is limited as follows:  (1) one is allowed on any residential property.  For non-residential property which is less than 5 acres:  (1) one is allowed by right; and if the property is greater than or equal to 5 acres, (2) two towers are allowed by Right.

Large Wind Energy Systems are prohibited within the Village boundaries as a Permitted Use or as a Special use.  The Large Wind Energy Systems also includes prohibitions for systems proposed to be constructed on an unincorporated property that is up to 0.5 miles of the Village of Gurnee boundary.

Chairman Sula asked the Commissions for any questions or comments.

Chairman Sula opened the floor to the Public.

Mr. Rich Readling of 4908 Carriage Drive in Prairie Oaks thanked the Commission for investing a lot of cycles in developing a substantial Ordinance so the people in the community can utilize this technology.  He stated it is not clear in the Ordinance on the height and asked if the height is to the tip of the actual structure that is built. He asked if it is to the top of the mount for a building mounted or to the top of tallest point of the entire wind system.

Mr. Mentkowski stated for the wind system itself the height is to the top of the blade if it is horizontal.

Mr. Readling asked if there are supporting Ordinances revolving around the installation and maintenance of these types of systems and asked if this would be covered here or somewhere else.  He provided more explanation which involved the electrical aspect. He stated these systems are generally “DC” based and have inverters that can convert them to alternating current. He stated this can be very dangerous depending upon how much energy is generated. He asked if there would be any type of inspection that would need to be done on this type of system to ensure that they do meet any wiring code that might be appropriate for this type of device.

Mr. Ziegler responded there are adequate electrical codes that cover inverters and all of the electrical wiring as it enters a residence. He stated the electrical inspector is up to date on all the codes required and he understands all these types of systems.

Chairman Sula asked for any other questions from the Public and seeing none, he closed the Public Hearing.

Chairman Sula stated he had a concern with (1) one turbine allowed per 5,000 square feet on a non-residential building as this could evolve to (20) twenty turbines on a 100,000 square foot warehouse and asked if the Commissions were okay with this.

Mr. Mentkowski stated most of the focus in the past workshops was on the multi-family. He stated the 1/5000 square feet was actually requested in one of the workshop meetings as there was originally 1 per lot which per the Commission was not enough.

Chairman Sula stated he liked the concept of a Special Use for a multi-family as it could mean 5 units or perhaps 30 units and having a Special Use process to review the specifics is a good idea. He asked if something similar is needed for the industrial type, warehouse and retail areas.

Ms. Salmons stated she would not be comfortable with a whole forest of these units on a large building, such as Gurnee Mills.

Mr. McFarlane suggested the idea of 2 units allowed and anything beyond would need a Special Use.

Chairman Sula stated he believes a low level threshold is needed and anything above that would require a review process and that this new territory.

Ms. Salmons stated in one of the workshops it was mentioned that a maximum of (1) one be allowed on a commercial building and nothing came up for anything over 5,000 square feet. She stated this is something she would not be comfortable with as there could be a lot of wind turbines on a large building. She stated a maximum of (2) two and then a Special Use would be a more workable solution.

Chairman Sula asked if the Zoning Board of Appeals Commission had any comments.

Mr. Twitchell stated it really depends where the turbines are placed on the building. He stated in many cases if they were clustered to the center of the roof on a 100,000 square foot building providing the structural aspects of the building would allow this to occur, the turbines would not be seen from the ground, around the building. He stated a person would have to be 100 – 300 feet away to actually see the turbines on top of the roof. He stated he understands the idea of a maximum of (2) two turbines and believes this should be changed to a maximum of (5) five turbines.

Mr. Kolar asked if the (5) five acre would limit this.

Mr. Ziegler stated the (5) five acre limit is geared toward tower mounted. He stated this part of the discussion is referring to building mounted for non-residential as a function of the commercial / industrial building size.

Mr. Kolar asked if the (5) five acre rule could be applied to the building mounted.

Mr. Ziegler responded it doesn’t really create a consistency between an industrial building that has a large footprint and small parking amounts on a smaller lot versus a commercial building that has a smaller building footprint and a lot more parking. He stated the building size related better to the number of building mounted units versus trying to do this on an acreage basis.

Chairman Sula stated his personal bias that comes into play is when he hears “it depends” as he tends to think more towards Special Use.

Mr. Park stated in raising another aspect of the same issue, that the quantity of Building Mounted is one issue and the threshold of how many square feet “per” should be tied into this as well.  He gave the example of a restaurant having a building mounted on a smaller building.

Mr. McFarlane stated if (1) one per house is allowed then it makes sense to allow (1) one per gas station.

Chairman Sula stated everyone is raising good points. He stated his personal bias is typically to start out tight and if it is found to be an administrative nightmare it is easier to loosen up. He stated it is much harder to correct something once it is out there and then becomes fouled up.

Mr. Park asked if Chairman Sula is suggesting that a limit of (1) one per 5,000 square feet for non-residential with a maximum of (2) two unless a Special Use is requested.

Chairman Sula responded that he is not suggesting a number at this time. He stated he knows he would not be happy seeing (20) twenty wind turbines on top of a building such as the Target store. He stated he feels a maximum number of turbines should be set so a review would be required.

Mr. Mentkowski responded that a possible suggestion could be (1) one per 10,000 square feet with a maximum of (5) five and anything above this would be a Special Use.

Ms. Salmons stated precedence is currently set with Chipolte.

Mr. Ziegler responded the Chipolte building is only 5,000 square feet and that turbine is Tower Mounted. He stated the Building Mounted Systems are based on building size.

Chairman Sula asked the Commission what they felt on Staff’s suggestion of (1) one per 10,000 square feet up to a maximum of (5) five.

Mr. McFarlane responded it is a good suggestion.

Mr. Park responded that it is a good start and could be adapted in the future.

Chairman Sula agreed that this would work for the Commission.

Mr. Drennan stated in relation to the sound, if the Commission is making a recommendation, that he is not sure that he knows the difference between 55 decibels and 45 decibels and what this would actually sound like. He asked for clarification on these figures and questioned if a person can tell the difference between 45 decibels and 55 decibels.

Ms. Velkover stated Staff went to Dr. Thunder, an acoustic engineer who has previously worked with wind turbines.  She stated he has recommended these Noise Standards which are similar to those within the Lake County Task Force. She stated basically Staff is relying upon Dr. Thunder and his expertise.

Mr. Mentkowski stated in addressing the noise issue, a quiet office would be 50 decibels and the conversation that is taking place at this moment would be more than 50 decibels. He stated the 45 decibel mark is low and set as a tight standard to start at.

Mr. McFarlane stated part of the struggle with this in a person’s mind is when a person sees the turning of blades, such as those on an airplane or a fan in a person’s kitchen it is that the blade is being powered to move, therefore making noise. He stated wind turbines are the opposite where the air is flowing through and moving the blade so there is no resistance or churning. He stated even the large wind turbines on wind farms virtually have no noise.

Mr. Drennan stated his concern is for someone whose residence is on a quarter acre lot and there is wind turbine located next door.

Mr. Twitchell responded a person would get more noise with the wind blowing through the folds of a tree.

Mr. Mentkowski noted if the turbine is designed properly and meeting code, the turbine will just spin with no noise other than the noise of the actual wind.  He stated using the sound meter in different areas around Gurnee provided the following information:  56 decibels in a rural area, in the middle of a corn field with a low reading of 40 decibels and the average being 45 decibels; at Gurnee Mills the range was 55 decibels to 80 decibels; in a sub-division the range was 42 decibels to 82 decibels (due to the wind).

Mr. Drennan stated it is different if a person is in his residence next to a constant humming 24 hours per day because a neighbor has a wind turbine on their house. He stated he was trying to figure out what the right level of decibels would be so that a person would not be bothered with the noise from a next door neighbor.

Mr. Mentkowski stated as he listened to Dr. Thunder he was amazed with how much information Dr. Thunder knew about noise.  He stated these figures are based on Dr. Thunder’s knowledge of noise and knowledge of wind farms around the area. He stated if this became adopted as is, and for some reason it did become an issue due to not meeting the Ordinance, it would be enforced. He stated if something had to be changed Staff would come back and make those changes.

Chairman Sula stated it is drafted, as a concept with it being a matter of daytime noise versus night- time noise levels. He stated if a person is speaking at a 45 decibel level at 3:00PM when sitting at a neighbor’s patio, it would not be a problem, however at 2:00AM it is too loud. He stated in his mind the issue is as drafted and questioned if the 45 decibels for the night-time is enough. He stated the measuring of sound with distraction in the background is a lot different than the dead of night when there are no other sounds and it is very quiet. 

Mr. Twitchell stated to be silent for 10 seconds in this meeting would be 50 decibels.

Chairman Sula stated if the noise with no one in this meeting talking is 45 decibels, and just with the air conditioning on, he would not have an issue with that. He stated if one person would be talking and that would bring it up to 45 decibels instead of something much lower, then while talking now would be too loud for night-time if referring to something in your neighbor’s yard at 2:00AM.

Ms. Salmons stated the noise would be above person’s head, i.e. a (25) twenty-five foot tall home with (15) fifteen feet above that point, would have a space between you as a person and where the noise would actually be coming from with the noise actually going outward and not down onto your head.

Chairman Sula stated no one has decibel meters built into their palms to know what the decibels really are. He asked if Dr. Thunder is stating that 45 decibels at night time would not bother a person. 

Mr. Mentkowski responded yes. He stated if it were to be at 40 decibels, then essentially it would not allow for Small Wind Turbines.

Chairman Sula stated that if Dr. Thunder states 45 decibels will not be offensive to someone 50 feet away then he personally doesn’t have an issue.

Mr. Park mentioned according to “Google”, it states a quiet conversation at home in a suburb is 50 decibels and a library would be 40 decibels as this is the lowest limit of ambient sound. He stated this information is according to the Industrial Noise Council.

Mr. Drennan asked if it is indicated what each wind turbine produces as far as decibels and if they are all standard at 40, 45 or 50 decibels.

Mr. Mentkowski replied they will have specifications for the turbines from the manufacturers.

Mr. Ziegler stated the turbines are rated for decibels levels at distances away.

Mr. Drennan asked how shadow flicker would be addressed in a residential area, such as by height or setbacks.

Mr. Ziegler responded setbacks are the primary way of limiting shadow flicker. He stated shadow flicker is more of a function of the Large Wind Turbine Systems. He stated shadow flicker isn’t really an issue with the Small Wind Turbines based upon basic geometry of the sun and earth along with the relatively short height of the turbines. He noted the concept of shadow flicker is the sun setting and the 450 foot tall wind turbines casting a shadow 2 miles long with the blade slowly moving through the shadow flicker and the blade being large enough to physically block out the sun.  He stated this is the shadow flicker that is seen documented. 

Mr. Monahan commented that he thought the reason someone would want a wind turbine would be to defray their electric bill. He asked how much power a Small Wind Energy system would generate over the course of a year and what the percentage is as far as supplying power to a home.

Mr. Ziegler responded that a wind turbine is sized based on the propeller speed, the average amount of wind that blows through the turbine and the height. He stated with more height a cleaner and more consistent flow of air along with a higher wind speed generating the power. He stated the higher it is the more power is generated due to the air flow and wind speed. He stated for the residential systems with an average height of 35 feet with a 3 or 4 kilowatt turbine that over a course of a year it may generate 3,000 - 4,000 kilowatt hours of electricity. He stated the average single family home uses 10,000 kilowatt hours of electricity and 30%-40% of the electric usage would be a typical benefit from a free standing wind turbine in this area.

Mr. Monahan asked if it is then a 30-40% savings on a person’s electric bill for a year.

Mr. Ziegler responded, potentially yes.

Chairman Sula asked what the typical installation cost would be.

Mr. Ziegler responded for a 35 foot tall wind turbine it would probably be $12,000 - $15,000 depending upon the tax rebates and tax incentives, which incentives make this more feasible. He stated it would be a long term investment and probably be a 10-12 year payback period.

Mr. Monahan asked if this is something that should be considered with industrial buildings as if the number of turbines is too low it would prohibit them from doing this as it wouldn’t be cost effective.

Chairman Sula responded it would not be disallowing them but it would require a special use review to ensure it would not be offensive.

Mr. Park stated in the industrial and office market the types of users that are interested in these wind turbines are not doing it for the cost effective nature of the wind turbine but are doing it as a corporate policy so they can be good environmental neighbors.

Chairman Sula asked the Commission for their thoughts as far as option 1, 2 or 3.

Chairman Sula asked for a motion from the Plan Commission.

Mr. Park made a motion, seconded by Ms. Salmons, to forward a favorable recommendation on the ordinance as drafted, with the change as presented by Staff tonight of (1) one Building Mounted Wind Energy Systems per 10,000 square feet for non-residential with a maximum of (5) five and anything above (5) five could be as a Special Use.

Roll Call
Ayes:  Drennan, McFarlane, Park, Salmons, Sula
Nays:  None
Motion Carried: 5-0-0

Chairman Hood asked for a motion from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Mr. Twitchell made a motion, seconded by Mr. Monahan, to forward a favorable recommendation on the ordinance as drafted, with the change as presented by Staff tonight of (1) one Building Mounted Wind Energy Systems per 10,000 square feet for non-residential with a maximum of (5) five and anything above (5) five could be as a Special Use.

Roll Call 
Ayes:  Twitchell, Kolar, Monahan, Hood
Nays:  None
Motion Carried: 4-0-0

Chairman Sula & Chairman Hood asked for motion to adjourn.

All members of the Plan Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals voted aye to adjourn.

The Meeting was adjourned at 8:41 P.M.

Respectfully Submitted:


Joanne Havenhill
Plan Commission Secretary