Posted By MARY GOLEM, Owen Sound Sun Times
An Arran-Elderslie councillor’s attempts to control the construction of large industrial wind turbines in the municipality has hit more roadblocks.
Elderslie ward Coun. Mark Davis said yesterday he’s “getting really tired of hearing what we can’t do” to control the construction of wind turbines which he calls “intrusive” and “an eyesore” on the rural landscape.
Last month Davis attempted to get council to impose a one-year moratorium on the construction of wind turbines, with a possible one-year extension, through the use of an interim control bylaw, citing among other things, health and safety concerns.
However, both Arran-Elderslie chief administrative officer A. P. Crawford and Bruce County planner David Smith recommended such an interim control bylaw not be passed, saying imposing such a bylaw, which the province has already told municipalities they cannot do, would not be defensible if the issue was ever taken to court or the Ontario Municipal Board.
Instead, at council’s Nov. 2 meeting, Smith and Crawford suggested alternatives, including establishing heritage conservation districts within the municipality under the Ontario Heritage Act “to protect both the landscape and visual appearance of the area.”
Council delayed making a decision about the interim control bylaw until it could get more information about what alternatives were available.
Although in agreement with the heritage conservation designation, several members of council expressed concern with the cost of the required studies, which could reach $100,000.
Funding is available from the provincial government to help cover some of the cost, said Tim Cane, a representative of Jones Consulting, specialists in heritage conservation studies and heritage conservation districts.
Smith noted later in the meeting “other than sending a message about your dislike for turbines, there are negatives with a heritage conservation district that outweigh the positives”, including the cost of the required studies and the designation all properties in the municipality would have placed on them because of the heritage designation.
A written suggestion by two residents, Bill Palmer and Keith Stelling, for council to pass a motion of censure — an expression of strong disapproval against the premier — “is a people’s political move with no legal authority,” municipal solicitor Ross McLean told council.
McLean said under the Green Energy Act “there’s nothing you can do to stop the turbines” but “if you’ve been told you can’t say no to turbines, you could pass a municipal bylaw that freezes most normal uses around them should a turbine go up.”
McLean told council “certain scientific criteria” would have to be established when setting up the bylaw “in order to make it defensible” but told council limiting use around the turbines “because of health and safety concerns” may be an option available to council. He warned, however, such a bylaw could “adversely affect property owners even if they don’t have a turbine on their own property” and such a bylaw “can always be challenged under the Municipal Act.”
Paisley ward Coun Jack Riley expressed concern about placing restrictions on people’s property, calling such a move “upsetting.”
Mayor Ron Oswald urged council to support Dr. Hazel Lynn and the Grey Bruce Health Unit’s concerns about the turbines because of health and safety issues.
Finally council decided to give its solicitor and municipal staff more time to study the options available with a report about their findings expected at council’s next meeting Nov. 23.