No brakes on wind turbines

Council seeks input, not moratorium

by Bill Jackson - The Regional

Sept. 15, 2010

Halidmand Council still hasn't joined the 67 other municipalities across Ontario that are asking for a moratorium on the erection of industrial wind turbines.

A motion sent to Haldimand that was passed by Norfolk County Council earlier this year asks for a moratorium on wind turbines until "rigorous, scientific, epidemiological research is conducted at arms' length from both the Wind Energy Associations and the governments which are granting certificates of approval, to be assured that the health and safety of the people to whom the council has a fiduciary duty will be protected."

At a committee meeting on Monday, mayoral candidate and ward two Coun. Buck Sloat tabled a motion for reconsideration, needing four votes in favour of revisiting the matter. But with Mayor Marie Trainer and Coun. Tony Dalimonte absent, only two other councillors - Leroy Bartlett and Don Ricker - supported his intent. The matter can be rehashed and voted on again at next week's council meeting.

Coun. Lorne Boyko told The Regional News that the sees it as a "political game" and that health concerns related to wind turbines do not fall within council's area of expertise. With an election just weeks away, he said it should be up to the next county council to revisit the matter if it chooses.

"We're actually in a lame duck position," he said. "Council needs to have a say if and where it wants turbines."

The province's Green Energy Act disables municipal planning mechanisms, enabling wind turbines to be established in locations not supported by elected local councils.

The five concillors present at Monday's meeting did vote in favour of appointing two council members to a working group under the auspices of the Western Ontario Wardens' Caucus (WOWC) that will develop a strategy to oppose the provincial government's "wind turbine agenda."

"There appeared to be strong support for the position that turbines should only be located in jurisdictions where they are welcomed," said a report containing notes from a meeting of WOWC representatives last month.

The notes, forwarded to Haldimand County officials by WOWC chairperson Kevin Eccles, highlighted that 50 municipalities across Ontario are taking the case to the Supreme Court.

Coun. Craig Grice pointed out that Haldimand is already on record as supporting renewable, green energy as part of a Green Energy Hub with surrounding municipalities, including Norfolk. He also voted against revisiting the moratorium motion form Norfolk.

"I don't see the need for a moratorium, but we need input on information in the planning process to control concerns and deal with them appropriately," he said.

"I think there's a happy medium, but we can't join the energy hub and then ask for a moratorium."

Clearly, there are people on both sides of the debate. Many residents are being left out of the decision making process and are very concerned, Bartlett acknowledged.

"It's pitting neighbour against neighbour," the ward one councillor stated.

There are hundreds of turbines being proposed by companies in the vicinity of South Cayuga, Sweets Corners and Rainham Centre, south of Highway 3.

"Do I like wind turbines? I don't think that's up for me to say one way or the other," Bartlett said.

Ken Brownell made a presentation to council on behalf of the Haldimand Northshore Property Association and said that he wasn't there to weigh the merits of wind turbines.

"I'm not here to debate whether they should be built or shouldn't be built," he said.

"There may be a need for wind turbines, I don't know. I have no idea. All I know is I'm concerned about where they are being built, now many are going to be built, and the placement of these units."

According to the WOWC document, "There are no guidelines to govern behaviour of developers or land owners at the pre-signing of options stage of the process. For example, some municipalities are negotiating community benefits with developers...

"Confidentiality agreements negotiated with land owners by the developers precludes being able to develop a broad understanding of the issues or a common approach."

If elected in the fall of 2011, Ontario's Progressive Conservatives have promised to look at restoring municipal planning authority when it comes to green energy proposals. But time is of the essence.

Even after a public meeting earlier this year, Bownell said he doesn't understand much about Samsung's proposal to erect 60 wind turbines in the area, starting next spring.

"We've never seen anything from Samsung other than the map of the proposed area where they want to put these," he said. "What's lurking? There is no definitive information available such as what point the planning is at and what projects are given the go ahead."

Brownell highlighted numerous health concerns and media sources so that councillors can find out more about wind turbines and the threats they pose.

"This municipal county has a duty and a responsibility to the community and its residents," he said.

"It is not acceptable to simply ignore..."

In residential areas where turbines are constructed, property values have declined, he emphasized.

"This is what I'm saying about wind turbines. They should not be constructed, if they are to be constructed at all, in a heavily populated area such as the Lakeshore."