County finally gets in step with state law

The winds of change are alive in Sussex County.

Under state law adopted last year, local governments and community associations were no longer allowed to require special approvals in order to allow installations such as windmills or wind turbines. This was seen as a way to help residents either go green or save money on their electric bills.

However, Sussex County Council held that its 5-acre minimum lot size restrictions for such structures remained in place. With such a rigid rule, homeowners and installers couldn’t even ask for approval, let alone obtain it, if people with smaller lot sizes wanted to go that direction. Council had argued that they were not going along with the state on this issue because of safety concerns — that they were wary of a structure falling and hurting somebody, or somebody’s property, as well as noise.

But that changed on Tuesday, as council voted unanimously to change the ordinance requiring at least 5 acres of land. In fact, the new rules take effect immediately, and merely limit property owners to a single such device on any given parcel, provided it is properly installed and maintained. Applicants no longer will need board approval, just a county building permit. Among other variables, the new ordinance requires that the device be installed as far back from each property line as the hight of the tower plus the length of one blade.

“This tightens the process and puts the County in sync with State law,” explained County Administrator David Baker. “We wanted to make sure the County has the appropriate controls in place so those who want windmills can have them, while still taking into consideration the public’s safety and best interests. We believe this new ordinance does that.”

We could harp on the county council for not doing this sooner. In fact, we have. However, the important thing is they finally got in step with state law, and are allowing property owners the freedom to install these wind devices on their own properties. Energy and money are precious, especially during these times, and a responsible government finds ways to help people meet their needs.

We applaud the council for finally making this change.