Posted By MARY GOWAN, Owen Sun Times
Arran-Elderslie has passed a bylaw to control wind turbine development based on health concerns and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Council unanimously approved final reading to the bylaw Monday, although there was disagreement about using taxpayers’ money to defend it if it should be challenged.
Elderslie ward Coun. Mark Davis and the municipality’s former clerk-administrator Joan Albright worked on the bylaw, which calls for “the protection of life, liberty and security of person” under Section 7 of the Charter, claiming wind turbines cause serious health effects.
“We owe it to our people to maintain their health and wellbeing,” Davis said when he first presented the bylaw to council two weeks ago.
Council also passed a motion that the bylaw “be applicable law for the purposes of issuing a building permit, designed to ensure that the health and safety needs of the Municipality of Arran-Elderslie are being met.”
While Davis is prepared to continue fighting against wind energy projects in the municipality, some members of council believe this latest action is as far as they should go.
At council’s last meeting, Davis urged Mayor Ron Oswald to seek Bruce County Council’s support and to use money from its “rainy day account” should the bylaw need to be defended.
“We might need $100,000 from both Bruce and Grey counties to defend this, if it ever gets that far,” Davis said at the meeting two weeks ago. “We will not give up the fight.”
But Oswald has not yet asked Bruce County council for support and on Monday said he personally “cannot support spending taxpayers’ dollars to fight this.”
“I’m concerned about the health effects of these things on our people,” Tara ward Coun. Paul Eagleson said, but said he thinks any further fight “is too expensive, too rich for Arran- Elderslie to pursue. I’m all for green energy and for conservation, but I think we’ve pushed this issue as far as we can . . . when the government brought in the Green Energy Act they stripped us (local municipalities) of our rights. I can’t support taking the fight any further.”
Davis admits any further fight “could be expensive” but added “Arran-Elderslie has taken the lead on this and we can’t stop now. Someone has to lead the way and this appears to be our strongest route. I just hope other municipalities will follow suit,” Davis said, adding “if everyone works together, it would be affordable.”
Davis later admitted wind energy projects “could become an issue” in this fall’s municipal election campaign.
“If I decide to run and if I lose on this one issue, that will be OK because I’ll go down knowing I did what is best for the total municipality . . . the negative effect of these things on this municipality is huge and I’m prepared to spend Arran-Elderslie dollars to fight it if we have to.”
Chesley ward Coun. Stacy Charlton expressed concern that supporting the bylaw and fighting wind energy projects would hurt the municipality’s chances of getting provincial grant money. He claims MPP Carol Mitchell told him at an event in Chesley last fall “that those who don’t support green energy projects must not need government money either.”
“Well, the government hasn’t done too good of a job giving Arran-Elderslie money in the past so I can’t see how this is going to make things worse,” Davis replied.
Arran-Elderslie will circulate the bylaw to all municipalities in Ontario seeking support.
Grey County Council passed a motion last week to direct county staff to investigate preparing a similar wind turbine control bylaw.
Grey’s motion cited the possibility that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms could trump the provincial Green Energy Act, which replaced local control with uniform provincial rules and vested the province with the sole power of approval over wind power generation.