Deputy-mayor says municipality will continue fight against wind farms until health study done
By Mary Golem, Owen Sound Sun Times
Arran-Elderslie is considering raising building permit fees for all buildings and structures related to commercial wind turbines.
Chief building official Stephen Walmsley proposes a fee of $50 per $1,000 of project value. The fee has been $15.
In a written report to council, Walmsley noted the fees “reflect an average, or slightly above average, of what other municipalities in the surrounding area are charging for all buildings and structures related to commercial wind turbines.
He recommends the higher rate “to offset the cost of road and tile drainage repair, as well as legal fees, staff time, permit processing, entrance permit fee and all other incidental costs incurred in relation to the installation of commercial wind turbines in Arran-Elderslie.”
Deputy-mayor Mark Davis, an outspoken critic of wind energy projects, said he hopes the municipality “never gets to the point of needing such fees” and the municipality will continue its fight to block any wind energy projects “until such time proper studies have been completed that show there will not be adverse health effects on our residents.”
Council is expected to vote on the proposed building permit fees at its next meeting.
Meanwhile, Arran Wind Project developer Charles (Chuck) Edey wants council to prepare a report for the Arran Wind Project’s renewable energy approval consultation process. In a letter to council, Edey said the 115-megawatt project in parts of Arran-Elderslie and Saugeen Shores “is currently awaiting approval” of its application to the Ontario Power Authority for a Feed-in Tariff contract.
“We are also working to meet or exceed the requirements of the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) process,” Edey wrote in the letter.
Council deferred Edey’s request. Davis said council stands by its Jan. 19, 2011, motion with respect to “imposing a freeze on the issuance of any kind of permits that would lead to the construction of industrial wind turbines until such time that our Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hazel Lynn has completed a study or had an approved third-party study done to her parameters that answers these questions [regarding health and safety issues] to her satisfaction.”
In a letter of response, Dr. Lynn and the board of health said it was “encouraged to see that your community is taking action to support the residents that may experience negative effects from the operation of industrial wind turbines in their vicinity,” calling the municipality’s concern for its residents’ health “commendable.”
However, Lynn pointed out the board “is limited in its options”, saying Ontario Public Health Standards direct the board of health “to collaborate with the lead government agencies charged with primary responsibility for an environmental health issue to mitigate such issues, in this case, the Ministry of the Environment.”
Lynn also noted a report she completed in January regarding areas of study around health effects of wind turbines, which identifies eight areas “that merit further exploration and study.”
The Grey Bruce Health Unit, she notes, “has neither the expertise nor funding” to carry out the studies and the board “is in support of your action to halt new development until some of the important questions are answered.”
“You are not alone,” Lynn wrote. “Areas of Australia, New Zealand and Denmark have similar concerns and have imposed a moratorium on new wind turbine development. I am hopeful that over the coming years we will develop a better understanding of the effects of this technology on our physical well-being as well as the environmental and economic advantage, if any.”