Use Niagara Escarpment Commission to stop turbines

by Chris Fell,

Meaford council is going to investigate having thousands of acres of property in Sydenham Township added to the Niagara Escarpment Commission area in an effort to stop an industrial wind turbine project proposed for that segment of the community.

At its regular meeting on Monday, May 9, council passed a resolution calling on the provincial government to delay all wind turbine development until proper community consultation is done.

That resolution came after council received a lengthy report from Director of Building and Planning Rob Armstrong about alternative energy, the Green Energy Act and the 26-turbine project proposed by International Power Canada (IPC) in Sydenham Township.

In his report Armstrong noted that the Green Energy Act removed all planning authority municipalities have over alternative energy projects – meaning local and county planning policies don’t apply. However, Armstrong said planning policies for the NEC are still in place and apply to alternative energy. The NEC Plan would not allow industrial wind turbine development.

Armstrong asked council for permission to bring back a detailed explanation about how to proceed with having the lands placed under NEC planning control and what the costs would entail.

In an interview after the meeting Armstrong said to proceed, the municipality would make an application to the NEC to incorporate those lands into its plan. He explained that the lands in question, where IPC has optioned 4,000 acres and plans to construct 26 industrial wind turbines, were in the original preliminary proposal for the NEC when the commission was first established.

“If people on council think that area needs to be protected because of its natural beauty it should be in the NEC. That is what the NEC is for,” Armstrong commented.

The NEC option available to the municipality appeared to be attractive to members of council.

“If we decided to go that route – how long would it take to get approval? Would it have any affect on the Silicote project?” Deputy Mayor Harley Greenfield asked.

Armstrong explained that he would be bringing back a full report about the possibility. He estimated that the process would take three to four months and would require supporting documentation to go forward. Armstrong said he didn’t know how such a process would directly impact a specific project, but did note that industrial uses wouldn’t be permitted on the NEC.

Councillor Lynda Stephens also asked Armstrong how moving the lands into the NEC would impact the property owners that had optioned their land to IPC.

Armstrong said the lease agreements for the land are between IPC and individual property owners and wouldn’t affect the NEC issue. He said a wind turbine project that was approved before the lands were put into NEC control would likely still be allowed to proceed.

Council also wanted to know what new planning restrictions would accompany moving the property into NEC control.

Armstrong said most of the land in question is zoned agriculture and already has significant restrictions on the nature of development.

“The majority of that land is agriculture and it’s pretty restrictive anyway,” he said.