The Marin County Planning Commission voted Monday to further restrict the location of future wind turbines in the draft of the Local Coastal Program. The new language, put forth by Commissioner Wade Holland, limits all freestanding Wind Energy Conversion Systems (WECS) to agriculturally-zoned
properties. According to restrictions already in the draft, turbines west of Highway One must be no more than 40 feet high, and those east of the highway must be no higher than 100 feet. Roof-mounted structures, not included in the new zoning stipulation, are limited to ten feet above the roofline.
Holland said he motioned for the amendment to the draft as an effort to protect the character of West Marin villages. “Given where [the staff] started from—they were going to permit up to 100 feet anywhere in the coastal zone—we’ve scaled it back a long ways,” he said.
Local environmental advocates were hoping for more. “It’s better, but it’s not what we wanted,” said Helen Kozoriz, a member of the West Marin/Sonoma Coastal Advocates (WMSCA). Kozoriz presented photos to the commission showing contrasting views of Shell Beach—now, and with simulated WECS—as evidence that the 100-foot height limit for turbines east of the highway insufficiently protects the scenic value of the coastal zone. She also pointed to a clause in the draft that she believes presents a loophole for potential wind developers.
“Essentially what we’re tying to prevent is the industrialization of the coast,” Kozoriz said. “I would say that allowing WECS east of Highway One to 100 feet is a step towards industrializing the coast.”
Susie Schlesinger, a member of WMSCA who lives near the 148-foot McEvoy Ranch wind turbine in northern Marin, said the commission’s failure to further reduce the height limit for WECS east of the highway smacks of Nimbyism on the part of Holland, who lives west of the highway. “The 40-foot [WECS] won’t be next to him, but the 100-foot ones could be in the viewshed of everybody looking at it,” she said.
The Planning Commission will vote on the approval of the draft Local Coastal Program on February 13.