Fort Worth residents, developer battle over wind turbines




Posted on June 14, 2010 at 5:54 PM

FORT WORTH — Fort Worth is at the center of a national debate pitting conservation versus preservation.

While one developer wants to put a wind turbine on top of an historic building, many residents in the neighborhood say it crosses the line between green energy and curb appeal.

A single wind turbine spins waits to provide renewable energy in Fort Worth's revitalized south side. Developer Peter Lyden had visions of using five to six turbines to save 30 to 40 percent on his energy costs.

"I've got several historical buildings in and around the area, including the Victory Arts Center, the bank across the street and several other properties," he said. "I would very much like to implement this across the board once we prove it to be successful."

But, those turbines may never branch out.

The Fairmount Neighborhood Association isn't too keen on the windmills being perched on top of the historic structures, like the Mehl Building.

"We want to see the building; we want to see the historical structure, not mechanical equipment that detracts from the character," said former association president Patti Randle.

Fairmount neighbors argue that the turbines aren't much more than a science experiment that you can't help but notice from the street. Also, no one knows how much energy the turbines really provide.

"If you put the wind turbine up there and it detracts from the building, what have you really gained?" asked Fran McCarthy, who is also with the neighborhood group.

But Lyden said cutting edge technology has been a part of Fairmount's history. It led the way at the turn of the century with electric lights. He said he believes wind turbines are part of a future that Fort Worth should embrace.

"And I've been helping, working with them to come up with some standards that hopefully the industry can work with and the neighborhoods will be happy with," he said.

Those with the Fairmount Neighborhood Association said it has nothing against being green; they just want the green to highlight the history — not overpower it.

Ray Boothe, an architect who is behind the wind turbine installation project, is in contact with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He and other developers want the Trust to come up with new standards that would allow green energy in older buildings in cities across the nation.