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Photo courtesy of Cook County Planning and Zoning
TV and communication towers have been in the North Shore news quite a bit recently, Now a tower of another type is being talked about in Tofte. Some residents don't want to see this 90-foot wind generator completed.

Wind generation on Superior shore?

By Rhonda Silence, Cook County Star
TV and communication towers have been in the North Shore news quite a bit recently, Now a tower of another type is being talked about in Tofte. Medora Woods, of Minneapolis, is installing a 90-foot wind generator on her Tofte lakeshore home - and some of her neighbors are unhappy.
Cook County Planning Administrator Tim Nelson was surprised when he received a call on February 27 from a Tofte resident asking if the proper permits had been issued for a tower construction. Nelson said that under existing Cook County zoning ordinances, a permit is not needed for a wind-generator tower. "Our ordinance is relatively vague on this. It says no structure shall be erected unless a land use permit is in place."
Nelson said the county ordinances were studied in detail and there were no clear prohibitions on wind generator towers. County ordinance section 2.59 states that fences, utility poles, lawn lights, antennae and related minor equipment shall not be considered structures. Another section, 5.08 states in districts where the following structures are permitted, heights of the some structures may exceed limits set forth elsewhere in the ordinance and item F specifically mentions windmills and wind generators.
And although there is a countywide moratorium on the construction of any new communication towers until June 2001, County Attorney Bill Hennessy, said this tower doesn't fall under that criteria.
In a phone interview, Woods said she has been planning her energy self-sustaining home since fall 1997. She has incorporated energy and water conservation features and installed photovoltaic (solar) roof panels. The Jacobs windmill construction has just begun, with cement footings and some framework in place. She admits she was remiss in not contacting her neighbor to the east, but feels that the wind generation firm she is working with has done a good job siting the tower. "It's sited in a way that you have to be right next to it to see it. We looked at it from many different angles. We also don't want it visible from the road. I can understand people's concerns - you come to the Northwoods for the scenery; you want it to be rustic. But we should all be more self-sufficient."
"If people have a problem with my wind tower, I'd say that using coal is much more damaging to the environment. Coal is dirty - to get out of the ground and to burn. It's just that it's doing the damage somewhere else."
Contacted by phone, easterly neighbor Jack Herbst applauded Wood's intentions, but added, "I don't want to look at it. I don't think it belongs on the lake." Herbst disagrees with Wood's assertion that it won't be seen from his house and trees will block that it. "We're kind of in a bay here. Her property juts out and there is no way we won't see it, from whatever window we look out. The trees here are about 35 to 40 feet - it will stick out like a sore thumb."
He is also concerned about the noise. Woods said the generator would be less noisy than the truck traffic on Highway 61. "It's not a motor noise - wind runs it. And if we have high winds, the lake will be noisier."
Herbst is not pacified by the comparison with Highway 61 traffic. "When we bought our home we were willing to accept the Monson trucks and noise behind us. We can hear it occasionally, but not when we go downstairs or sit out on our deck. This we will see - and hear!"
In fact, Herbst added that he wouldn't have minded if the tower had been placed closer to Highway 61. "It probably wouldn't bother us at all."
However, he really doesn't believe the shore of Lake Superior is the place for a 100 foot tower. "The beautiful shoreline doesn't need power generation on it - especially when there are power lines running just up the road."
He added that he is concerned that precedence is being set. "If she can do it, what's to stop me from putting up two or three, to sell power to Arrowhead Electric? We could have wind generators up and down the shore?"
Arrowhead Electric's Member Services Representative Bill Huggins said the power company isn't pushing for the construction of wind generators. "If people want to sell energy, we're required by law to purchase it. We're not encouraging people to set up wind generators on Lake Superior. We certainly want to see alternative energy, but there have to be compromises."
Planning Administrator Nelson had the same questions and considered requiring a conditional use permit (CUP). However after discussions with the county attorney and Arrowhead Electric about the amount of electricity being produced, the county determined this was not a commercial enterprise, so a conditional use permit is not necessary. Nelson added that the county also looked at how it dealt with a similar project in Hovland in 1995.
Joseph and Mary Routh erected a 3,000-watt Whisper wind-generator on a 105-foot pipe tower at their home in Hovland. Before they began the project they talked to the county. "We talked to the planning director, Tim Kennedy. At that time, a permit wasn't needed because a tower wasn't considered a structure."
The Routh's also met with their neighbors. "When we were contemplating the project, we talked to neighbors 1/4 mile away to find out what their concerns were."
A step that might have helped Medora Woods, who may now face a battle to complete construction of her wind generator tower. Herbst and several other residents plan to ask the Tofte Town Board for a moratorium on wind generation towers on the lakeshore at the next town meeting on March 8. "I'd like to see a moratorium while the county looks into this. All Cook County residents should have a chance to have their say," said Herbst.  Voice your opinions on the Message Board.

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