Homeowner must disassemble wind turbine on his property in Orono, court rules

  • Article by: TOM MEERSMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 26, 2013 - 10:47 PM

Jay Nygard has erected a wind turbine that resembles a huge egg beater at the rear of his house on Lake Minnetonka in Orono.

Photo: BRUCE BISPING , Star Tribune

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An Orono man must take down a home-sized wind generator on his property because it poses a danger to public safety, a district judge ruled.

The decision by District Judge Marilyn Rosenbaum is the latest development in a lengthy legal dispute between homeowner Jay Nygard and the west metro city of Orono.

The city contended that the construction of the wind generator violated city ordinances and put Nygard’s neighbors and their properties at risk.

Nygard, a mechanical engineer who markets the turbines, has said that the machine is not dangerous, and that the city is overstepping its authority and discouraging him from helping the environment.

Orono city attorney Soren Mattick said the case is not about the merits of alternative energy. Nygard lives in an area with small residential lots, he said, and they’re not suitable for wind machines.

“This is nearly a 30-foot structure,” Mattick said. “It’s as tall or taller than a house, and it’s placed right on the property line.”

The wind generator is about 9 feet wide and 29 feet tall, with a 650-pound turbine mounted on a 700-pound galvanized pole. It sits in Nygard’s back yard on a spit of land that juts into Lake Minnetonka — and it’s less than 5 feet from a neighbor’s property.

Mattick said some other communities allow wind generators, but on much larger acreage, not on city-sized residential lots.

The latest ruling said that state officials inspected the system’s electrical connections, but the city has not inspected the pole and generator to ensure that they were installed correctly and are structurally sound.

Rather than inspect it, Orono denied Nygard’s application for a building permit in 2010 on the grounds that the wind machine violated rules on residential property lines and structural setbacks.

After the denial, Nygard built the wind generator anyway, and the city sued him the following March.

The case made its way through district court to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, which ruled in Nygard’s favor last October but returned the case to the lower court for further consideration.

Now the court has ruled again that Nygard must take down the turbine and pole within the next 20 days. The concrete pad and downed pole may remain on the property, according to the order, but the turbine must be removed.

The cost and inconvenience of taking down the machine “do not outweigh the important public safety concerns implicated by the continued operation of the wind generator and the presence of the turbine,” Rosenbaum concluded.

Nygard and his attorney could not be reached for comment, but they could again appeal the decision to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

 

Tom Meersman • 612-673-7388

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