By DAVE JOHNSON, Welland Tribune
WAINFLEET — Ald. David Wyatt’s motion calling for a moratorium on any new industrial wind turbine agreements in the province has been deferred until Wainfleet township council hears from area residents.
Wyatt brought forward his motion Tuesday nigh. It called for the province to provide assurances “there will be no negative financial impacts on residents and businesses in the township through diminished property values or limitations on business operations as a result of the construction of industrial wind turbines.”
Before the alderman brought the motion forward, council heard from Tom Lewis of IPC Energy, developer for Wainfleet Wind Energy Inc.; Tom Rankin of Rankin Construction, who first proposed building turbines in the township; Lene Rasmussen, a resident in favour of wind turbines; and Lyndon Ashton, an economic development officer with Niagara Economic Development Corp.
Lewis, manager of planning and environment at IPC, expressed disappointment at council’s decision to bring forward a moratorium on wind turbines.
Lewis brought up numerous health studies done in other areas of Ontario around wind turbines and said both Niagara’s and Ontario’s medical officers of health have found no concerns with turbines. He said his company is committed to the health and safety of Wainfleet residents and added wind turbines are environmentally superior to coal-fired or nuclear plants.
“Polls show people support wind power and I hope council takes a reasonable and balanced approach and invites experts here before making a decision,” said Lewis.
He also asked council if it had done any research at all into turbines or looked into those who are opposed to them. He claimed anti-wind groups were “driven and funded by private agendas that distort many facts” and that power worker unions and non-renewable energy were behind them.
He said wind turbine farms will provide an economic benefit for Niagara and Wainfleet and asked council to dismiss the motion.
Wyatt questioned Lewis about the economic benefits to Wainfleet — his main concern — but Lewis didn’t answer the question, instead he spoke of health concerns.
Ald. Richard Dykstra said Lewis was dodging the economic benefit question and pushed him for an answer on it.
“With all due respect I came here to speak of health issues. I’m not prepared to talk about it (economic benefits),” Lewis said, adding he would come back to council to answer that in the future.
Rankin told council he was annoyed when he heard of the proposed moratorium.
Rankin, who built the first wind farm in Ontario, said the one proposed for Wainfleet will generate income for the owners and township. Building the turbine towers and then maintaining them will also generate income for the area, he said.
He told council he’s visited wind farms in Spain and Palm Springs, Calif., and residents in the area around those farms had no complaints about them. He said setbacks there are less than they are in Ontario.
Wainfleet, he said, was putting itself in isolation from the rest of Niagara, especially with companies looking to come to the area.
“If you place a moratorium on wind farms, what kind of signal does that send to these people, they read newspapers,” said Rankin.
Rasmussen spoke in favour of turbines and said they are far better than coal-fired plants. Ashton spoke of the economic benefits to Niagara and Wainfleet of wind farms.
After hearing the presentations and Wyatt’s motion, Ald. Ted Hessels said he wanted to see it deferred.
“I’d like to see it come back after we have the public consultation.”
Hessels also wanted a public meeting to hear from pro and anti-wind farm sides. The township had been trying to arrange a meeting, but a wind turbine industry group was unable to arrange to send anyone down because of staffing levels.
“I think these things are crucial before we make a decision here,” Hessels said.
Mayor April Jeffs agreed with Hessels and said she felt more comfortable hearing from the public first at a forum on Wednesday, Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. in council chambers.
Council voted to defer the motion until its March 8 meeting.