By Gary Rennie, www.windsorstar.com
The first local lawsuit over wind turbines is shaping up in Amherstburg if the town issues a building permit — as expected — for the $25-million GenGrowth South Side project.
Mick MacCorquodale said Friday he’s retained a Windsor lawyer to file objections to the issuance of the building permit by the municipality. MacCorquodale’s home is near the five turbines proposed.
Coun. Rick Fryer said he and other members of council have been told the GenGrowth building permit will be issued by chief building inspector Steve Brown. “We have no say on council over the building permit,” Fryer said.
Fryer was disappointed a decision was made on the permit so quickly after a meeting Tuesday with environment ministry officials raised questions that still haven’t been answered. The main issue with the project has been whether it’s required to meet the town’s zoning bylaw, which stipulates a 600-metre noise setback from turbines to the nearest home.
Four of the five turbines don’t meet the town’s setback.
MacCorquodale thinks GenGrowth’s plans should have conformed to the town’s zoning bylaw or the company should seek approval to amend the bylaw. However, the passage of the province’s Green Energy Act appears to have eliminated further municipal authority over setbacks, council has been told by its staff.
The environment ministry issued a certificate of approval for the GenGrowth project prior to the Sept. 24 date last fall when the Green Energy Act took effect.
So, environment ministry officials have taken the position that the company doesn’t have to meet Green Energy Act requirements either.
MacCorquodale and others have been left puzzled by the end result that GenGrowth doesn’t appear to have to meet either municipal or provincial regulations on issues like setbacks.
GenGrowth has exploited vagueness in the Green Energy Act over projects that had approvals from some government bodies but not others, MacCorquodale said. He said he’s asked dozens of provincial officials to explain who has authority over the GenGrowth project, but gets conflicting answers.
The other big issue is noise, said MacCorquodale. With the environment ministry now publicly admitting they have no way of measuring noise from wind turbines, MacCorquodale questions why any have been approved.
Bill Anderson of Essex County Wind Action is also disappointed the town plans to issue a building permit to the GenGrowth project. “It’s a complete joke when you think about it,” said Anderson.
There’s confusion over what level of government has authority over GenGrowth’s project, and the province admits it lacks the expertise to measure noise levels to effectively protect nearby residents, Anderson said.