By Susan Hundertmark, Mitchell Advocate
Going through the draft project description report of the St. Columban wind project, Huron East Against Turbines (HEAT) members outlined their specific concerns about the 15-turbine project to Huron East councillors at their June 7 meeting.
“We wanted to identify the critical concerns of the draft project and we wanted to remind council that we have 220 signatures of people adamantly opposed to the project,” said HEAT member Jeanne Melady.
Melady encouraged councillors to read the draft report and make a response to the St. Columban wind project.
“The community wants the council’s decision to be informed and in the ratepayers’ interests – we’re hearing that very strongly,” she said.
Issues of concern for HEAT included the final location of the 15 wind turbines, whether or not there will be overhead collector lines and the full plan to decommission the wind turbines.
“They will not nail down where those turbines actually are,” she said.
Melady took exception to the statement in the draft project that “there is potential for limited environmental noise effects at sensitive receptors,” adding her conclusion that, “sensitive receptors are people – there is a recognition that there are going to be consequences.”
While the report says no substations or ancillary facilities “are anticipated to be required for the project,” Melady said the statement leaves the possibility of substations being erected.
“Is it going to happen or not? A transformer is a significant noise in the area,” she said.
She also took issue with the statement that recreation areas “may be located within the study area,” affirming that “the soccer fields and the school are definitely there – it’s not a possibility.”
“This is a very flawed project proposal. It raises a lot of red flags for us and we hope it does for you too,” said HEAT member Gerry Ryan.
Melady also asked that Huron East council consider passing a bylaw that would ask for proof of no harm from the developer and follow suit with both Huron County council and Central Huron council, who recently passed bylaws supporting a moratorium on industrial wind turbines in Ontario until conclusive health studies are conducted.
“The majority of the people do not want this project and council should reflect on the meaning of the numbers of farmers and residents who expressed their viewpoint at the tractor rally,” she said, adding that 57 local farmers drove their tractors to the protest.
While Huron East council did not discuss any of the requested bylaws at the June 7 meeting, councillors did debate whether or not they should change their zoning bylaw to reflect the industrial wind turbine setbacks laid out in the Green Energy Act.
Asked last month by HEAT to change Huron East’s zoning bylaw, which currently sets the minimum distance between turbines and houses at 350 metres, to a 1,000-metre setback in the event that the Green Energy Act is overturned by a change in government after this October’s provincial election, councillors have been debating whether or not they have the authority to change the turbine setbacks in their zoning bylaw and whether any changes should reflect what is currently allowed in the GEA.
Clerk-Administrator Jack McLachlan said he proposed to Huron East’s planner that the municipality’s zoning bylaw be changed to add the table of setbacks allowed under the GEA when Huron East makes some housekeeping changes to the zoning bylaw in the next few months.
“The planners are preparing the bylaw but they are not recommending it so if there is an appeal, we might not have the support of the planners,” warned McLachlan.
Council has been advised by its solicitor Greg Stewart that the municipality has no authority to change its wind turbine setback in the zoning bylaw while the GEA is in effect.
McKillop Coun. Bill Siemon argued that if Huron East’s solicitor is advising against the change and if HEAT isn’t satisfied by the setback distance, why would council go ahead and change it.
“Why would we go ahead when nobody seems to want it? I don’t see why we’re spending the money. Let’s just drop it,” he said.
McLachlan said he was instructed by council to “go ahead with it.”
Tuckersmith Coun. Larry McGrath said he agreed with putting the GEA chart on turbine setbacks into the Huron East zoning bylaw to counteract any negative effects of a 350 setback if the GEA is ever repealed.
Council also received a response from Stewart recommending against the passage of the Arran-Elderslie bylaw, 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.
Stewart said the municipality does not have the authority to direct the chief building official to refuse to issue a building permit for a wind turbine and cannot control wind energy facilities with a bylaw.
“I believe that a bylaw of this nature would be open to challenge on a number of basis and if the bylaw is challenged, the challenge would very likely be successful,” he said in his letter.