By Ron Giofu/The Amherstburg Echo
AMHERSTBURG — Building permits for GenGrowth’s five wind turbine project near Malden Centre look to be proceeding but nearby residents haven’t given up the fight.
“We are going to appeal them,” said Mick MacCorquodale.
MacCorquodale said he and several neighbors have concerns and a Windsor law firm has been hired. He said they will go through the Freedom of Information Act to obtain copies of the permits but noted “there is a catch-22 there” with the window to appeal the permits 20 days and a possible 30 day period for the Freedom of Information request to be considered.
The goal is to have a court reject the permits, and MacCorquodale said their lawyer believes they may have some grounds. He acknowledged that had the town rejected the permit, it would likely have been appealed to the OMB but because of the residents’ appeal there hope for a hearing anyway.
“One way or the other, it’s going to get settled,” he said.
MacCorquodale said they want the town’s 600m setback enforced. He believes because the project was approved before the province’s Green Energy Act came into effect, the 600m setback from homes is the way to go. According to MacCorquodale, “I’ve seen nothing to say (GenGrowth)” isn’t subject to the 600m setback.
At a meeting with Ministry of Environment (MoE) officials last Tuesday, it was disclosed to town council that while no more than 40 decibels of sound can reach a nearby home, there are no conclusive ways at this point to properly measure the sound.
“It’s like driving a car without a speedometer,” said MacCorquodale.
Councillor Rick Fryer admits to being “very disappointed” with how the process has done. Referring to health information obtained last week, Fryer believes setbacks should be as high as 800-950m from homes. He believed GenGrowth found a “loophole” in the process due to the fact no site plan was finalized before the Green Energy Act came into power.
Fryer said the province seems “hell-bent” on moving forward with green energy projects but thought council should have done more in this case. He did state that council wanted to sit and discuss the matter with policy makers but got regional representatives at the meeting instead.
“It seems residents have no say,” he added.
Mayor Wayne Hurst stated at last week’s meeting, there were still questions over health issues. He noted the report that came before council was only recently tabled. Councillor Bob Pillon added that the 600m setback bylaw “should be in place” for the project.
Bill Anderson, another resident with a number of concerns with the project, asked how the province can approve projects when there is no conclusive way to measure sound. He also wondered how the 550m setback under the Green Energy Act was realized due to different population densities and elevations throughout the province.
“All of these things have an impact on this and how sound carries,” he said.
With the 600m setback bylaw but no site plan, Councillor John Sutton said they were in a “limbo period” and didn’t want the issue to progress too far too fast.
“All we are saying is can we get answers before we go too far and end up in a real kettle of fish,” said Sutton.
GenGrowth president Paul Merkur said when they approached the town initially, they were informed the bylaw was in place. He said the company found the bylaw “very restrictive” and sought to discuss the matter further with administration.
“There was no lies or pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes,” said Merkur.
Merkur said they have been approved by the MoE and they “meet or exceed” standards laid out by the government.