By Susan Hundertmark, Mitchell Advocate
While a 9-1 recorded vote decided to change Huron East’s wind turbine setback in its zoning bylaw from 350 metres to 550 metres at council’s May 3 meeting, members of Huron East Against Turbines (HEAT) returned to council’s May 17 meeting to ask why their request to push the setback to 1,000 metres was not granted.
“It was my understanding that you’d look at a bylaw that would protect us. I don’t understand where the 550 metres came from,” said HEAT member Rob Tetu, who asked council to consider changing its zoning bylaw from the currently listed setback of 350 metres to 1,000 metres in the event that a provincial election could change governments and strike down the Green Energy Act.
While Huron East’s solicitor suggested not taking any action on wind turbine setbacks in its zoning bylaw, councillors decided to at least match the 550 setback in the Green Energy Act so that shorter setbacks could not be used by wind turbine developers if the Act was no longer law.
“Let’s say the GEA was scrapped and I’m a turbine developer – I might come to the municipality and ask what’s on the books. We only have so many hours to issue a building permit,” said Tuckersmith Coun. Larry McGrath at the May 3 meeting. McGrath added that he’d like to see at least 1,000 metres in the Huron East zoning bylaw, even though the municipality would not be able to enforce that distance under the GEA. He was the only councillor to vote against the motion to set a 550-metre setback in the zoning bylaw.
Brussels Coun. Joe Seili recommended upping the setback to at least 550 metres, so that the zoning bylaw would not contravene the GEA.
“At least that’s something – it’s more than we’ve got now. And, we started at 150 metres,” he said.
McKillop Coun. Bill Siemon questioned why it would matter if the zoning bylaw setback contravened the GEA since it would have no effect unless the Act was defeated.
Grey Coun. Alvin McLellan said that the least Huron East can do is match the GEA setback.
Mayor Bernie MacLellan agreed.
“If we passed the bylaw at 550 metres, we’d have ourselves covered and we could act as fast as we could if the GEA got squashed,” he said.
McLachlan questioned if the municipality will have the authority to change its wind turbine setbacks under its zoning bylaw when the GEA is in effect.
“I think you’re going to be challenged,” he said.
At the May 17 meeting, Siemon told Tetu and HEAT members Gerry Ryan and Jeanne Melady that while the 1,000-metre setback was defeated in favour of a 550-metre setback, “at least the 550 metres is enforceable – otherwise 350 is your bylaw.”
Ryan said that the zoning bylaw set at 550 metres makes it look like Huron East supports that distance and Melady asked whether a distance could be omitted from the bylaw with the wording that the “best and safest” setback would be determined by an epidemiological study on the health effects of wind turbines.
“Now, we have something we don’t feel safe with,” she said.
“I was very afraid that if we put it at 1,000 metres, it would be challenged and be back to 350,” responded Seaforth Coun. Bob Fisher. “We have to get legal consultation. It’s a rock and a hard place.”
“I think we’re all hoping for the knight to show up when the PC party wins,” added Grey Coun. Alvin McLellan.
Like he did at the May 3 meeting, McLachlan said Huron East’s lawyer Greg Stewart has advised that the municipality has no authority to change its wind turbine setback in the zoning bylaw while the GEA is in effect.
McLachlan added that Stewart is also in the process of looking at a bylaw from Arran-Elderslie which allows the municipality to issue a building permit for a wind generation facility when the application is accompanied by certificates from Health Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ontario Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and any First Nations communities in the area. Under the bylaw, each of the certificates must confirm that the wind generation facility will not harm the health, safety and well-being of any resident or the environment within the municipality.
The municipality turned down a recently presented proposed noise bylaw from Donnelly and Murphy that lists prohibitions of various noises, such as fireworks, firearms, engines, electronic devices, bells and horns, railway cars, venting of gases, persistent barking, yelling, loading and unloading, car washes and snow removal and the times they are prohibited. As well, the bylaw sets out penalties ranging from $300 to $5,000 for contraventions.
“It was more of a recovery of costs bylaw and we’ve already covered that,” said McLachlan of the proposed noise bylaw