By Scott Dunn, Owen Sound Sun Times
Health concerns may open door to local say
Grey County council has taken a first step to take back control of wind farm development in light of health concerns and newfound legal hope.
Councillors passed a motion Tuesday that was proposed by Chatsworth Mayor Howard Greig and seconded by The Blue Mountains Mayor Ellen Anderson.
County council voted to direct staff to investigate preparing a wind turbine control bylaw for the protection of people’s health.
Only Southgate Mayor Don Lewis spoke against the motion.
The motion cites the possibility that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms could by used to trump the provincial Green Energy Act, which replaced local control with uniform provincial rules and vested the province with the sole power of approval over wind power generation.
The motion also calls on Ontario to revisit the question of authority granted to municipalities under the act.
Greig said there has been no independent study of health effects, including ringing in the ears, headaches and sleeplessness, that some say are tied to wind turbines. He said studies that show turbines favourably have had ties to the turbine industry.
“We all know how consultants work. They tend to lean toward the party who’s paying the bill,” he said.
There are no turbines proposed for near his home, but he said he’s concerned about people who have expressed concerns about their health.
“There’s too many people coming forward with concerns about health effects for there not to be some validity,” Greig said in support of the motion.
“Properties are being bought, people are being relocated from their homes because of health effects,” Greig alleged.
Many municipalities are passing resolutions opposing wind turbines, he added. “Once you take away the municipal control, you take away the public’s control, the public’s say, too.”
Greig said he asked people who lease land for turbines in the Honeywood (near Shelburne) and Paisley areas if they would do it again and none would. Roads across good farmland are inconvenient for farmers and they’re left with a large concrete pad and turbine upon expiry of their lease in 20 years, Greig said.
Lewis called the intent of Greig’s motion a waste of county tax dollars.
“The province has taken control of this issue. And whether it’s good or bad it lays at the doorstep of Queen’s Park,” Lewis said.
“And I’m not sure I’m prepared to want to support issuing or spending taxpayers’ money here to argue with the industry. There’s been a lot of research on it. They’re right in our community down there.”
Grey Highlands Mayor Brian Mullin responded sarcastically that if it’s only a provincial responsibility, why not let the province decide everything for municipalities? “Queen’s Park should make up all the rules; why stop at the Green Energy Act?”
“These are major industrial complexes,” amid a natural landscape which the county hopes will draw tourists and retirees, Mullin said.
He said that across the province and around the world governments are rethinking their views about wind power. He thinks wind farms have a role to play, but municipalities need a say about them.
Anderson said municipalities should have a say over the projects because local people understand local circumstances.
“We’re not a bureaucrat sitting somewhere making a decision and handing out an RFP (request for proposal),” she said.
Last week Arran-Elderslie council unanimously passed the first two readings of a bylaw along the same lines that Grey County is considering.
Once passed, it would amend the municipal code to invoke a section of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in an attempt to block wind turbine development.
The municipal code is the entire set of regulatory bylaws used by the municipality.
Arran-Elderslie and its neighbouring municipalities — Chatsworth, West Grey, Grey Highlands, Georgian Bluffs, Saugeen Shores and South Bruce — have agreed to seek legal advice.
A rally at Queen’s Park last Wednesday supported a private member’s bill by Conservative MPP Sylvia Jones calling on the government to give municipalities back their Planning Act power for renewable energy projects.
Another Conservative motion, by MPP John Yakabuski, called on the province to freeze future wind power projects until the possible health effects are studied independently.