Current turbine setback parameters restrict residence construction
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following letter has been sent to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and is reprinted here at the author’s request.

I am writing to point out a serious error in the environmental requirements for new industrial wind turbine (IWT) projects as laid out in the Green Energy Act. Addressing this flaw has the potential to reduce, at least somewhat, the opposition local landowners have to these projects, and thus this problem requires your immediate attention.

According to the act, turbines are required to be set back a distance of 550 metres from a receptor of noise and vibration (namely a human residence). This means that within a radius of 550 metres around an IWT, no new housing may be constructed. The flaw in the act is that the setback distance is allowed to cross property lines and to fall on land not owned or leased by an IWT farm. This results in an impact to adjacent landowners because the setback restricts them from new residence construction on their lands.

To help you visualize this problem, I would like to give you a fairly tight comparison. In my work as an environmental consultant, I frequently work on environmental assessments for new aggregates operations to fulfill the requirements of the Aggregates Resources Act. Under that act, the setbacks lay out distances pits and quarries must be from neighbouring property lines—not from neighbouring houses. Try to imagine what it would be like to permit a new quarry to go in right on the fence line, allowing the 30-metre setback from the pit face to fall on the neighbour’s property. In the first place, this would put the impacts from the operation (things that are expected within a setback zone, like noise, dust, vibration, etc.) onto the neighbour’s property. Second, it would affect the neighbour’s current and potential land use since some activities, such as crop cultivation, new housing construction, development of a campground, and many other things might no longer be possible where there is dust, noise, etc. The situation is exactly the same with IWTs under the Green Energy Act.

The point of having a setback distance is to recognize that there are impacts within this zone, to intelligently plan where they occur, and to be able to put them where they do the least damage or have the least effect. To assume that adjacent landowners, without their consent and without financial compensation, should bear the brunt of impacts from IWTs is unfair.

As well, restricting land use also has an effect on the local municipality since new housing construction affects future assessment revenue.

You may think that the application and approvals process for new IWT projects takes all this into consideration. However, it is not realistic during the period of the application to ask landowners to lay out all the intended future uses of their lands possible for the remaining years of their ownership. Picture a man with a five-year-old son. How could he know now whether in 20 years he may want to subdivide the lot and build a house for the grown-up son? In addition, in my experience both in Simcoe County and on Manitoulin Island, even when a new residence is already on the books and brought to the attention of the proponent during the application process, it has ended up coming down to splitting hairs over what exactly is the definition of a residence, how many days it must be occupied, etc. before the residence has the possibility of being taken into consideration.

Rather than continue to cause distress, financial loss, and widespread opposition from local residents and municipalities with IWTs, you should immediately move to amend the Green Energy Act so that the 550-metre setback falls on property owned or leased by the proponent of an IWT project rather than allowing it on adjacent property.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Judith Jones, Consulting Biologist

Winter Spider Eco-Consulting, Sheguiandah

11 thoughts on “Current turbine setback parameters restrict residence construction

  1. Judith doesn’t get it – the setbacks were created to maximize the return to developers – not to protect the rights of citizens.

    The 550 metre distance has no basis in science – it’s basis is in maximizing the number of Turbines that can be crammed into a given project allowing for the existing sideroad / concession layout of rural Ontario.

    She also fails to aknowledge the real negative health impacts that these massive industrial machines are having on people who live, at least, within a couple of kilometres of them.

    Asking for an ammendment to 550 metres from property lines has no more scientific basis than the present regulations. Do the studies first!

  2. Judith is also working on the basis that wind development is a good thing. It’s not! When are people going to understand that wind does nothing to reduce C02 emissions, reduce the use of coal, does not provide long term green jobs without atrophying jobs in other sectors, has caused residents to abandon their homes, lower or stabilize electricity rates, wean us from foreign oil, nor provide a timely and reliable product needed in a modern society. Instead we let ourselves to be mislead and misguided by the Wind industry into thinking that the noise is no louder than a refrigerator, or that these turbines will do anything other than provide a superficial feel good gesture, political move for the McGuinty gov’t to appear environmentally conscious and an opportunity for developers to make a lot of money off the taxpayer’s back. Renewables are not proven, effective nor efficient.

  3. Good for Judith.

    I read the article. She did stick to a very narrow issue as she said.

    Her only point was that your neighbor can set YOUR terms of use for YOUR property.

    *** Perhaps we should view this as a another violation of charter rights. ***

    It is also an illustration of how the Wind Industry was treated differently from other industries –i.e. special privileges. Perhaps we can now refer to it as the “Crawley Factor”. (Please no “Creepy” jokes despite the proximity of Halloween!)

    First of all she is right to bring out this point.

    Second, all of those who doubt the power of her complaint — pull out some maps and do some basic cartography/math. What would happen to most “Wind Farms” in highly populated rural Ontario? Hmmm?

    Get behind her on this one!

    Consider her proposal/complaint — PLEASE!!!!

  4. Who in their right mind would want to build a home within 550 metres of one these swooshing, roaring, vibrating, noisy, shadow flickering, inefficient and expensive monsters?
    1000 metres distance is not enough!
    Well, if you don’t live near any those monsters, how would you know?
    A message to all IWT companies: Please, install one (or better a few) of these “GREEN” power plants at 551 metres from Dalton’s home.

  5. The point is that 550 metres (whether measured from homes or property lines) is a number which has not been based on anything other than profit!

    I accept the notion that setbacks must be measured from property lines and would support this parameter. I do not accept the notion that 550 metres has any validity, whatsoever. It is still a number that is based on nothing but Industry demands.

    Let’s get this done right – epidemiological studies must be completed before any distance is approved and it must take into consideration the safety of those who live within a dangerous distance of such development.

    Then – right! – measure from property lines but use a measurement based on science and safety!

  6. Let’s try this again with fewr mistakes and a decent spell checker…


    One step at a time…

    First establish the principle (again) that your property is your property. This is very tiresome I know as this is simply not required under the law. However there should be a damages claim at the end of the road.

    Second assemble the science proving the point that harm has been caused, and that harm will be caused by future installations and that any required setbacks should be increased. There is precious little science proving that turbines are safe — and only a small amount has been assembled showing harm. (Please don’t argue this point unless you wish to provide a literature survey.)

    Note that I said SCIENCE — just like you. There is lots of believable anecdotal evidence — but we know a lot less than we should about the actual mechanism of harm. We believe that much of the harm is being caused by infra-sound. However, providing guidance as to safe levels is impossible at this point as we know so little. Certainly audible sound also appears to be a significant issue as well as shadow flicker. Now we need the assemblage of the science.

    Besides — I have looked at a few maps of current projects and proposed projects. If we simply accept that her proposal meets the basic principles of law — which I believe that it does… then it guts the current proposals and provides a mechanism to unwind previous projects.
    If I had a turbine near me and it was within 550 Meters of my boundary — I would put up a “Summer Cottage as near my property boundary as possible under the law. Then I would apply to have the offending turbines removed. I think the law would accept that you have free and unencumbered usage of your own property if you break no laws. At the same time it must accept that a property use which infringes on your property rights should be circumscribed under the law.

    Her point that nobody should be allowed to create a nuisance on another property that impinges on my property rights and freedoms as is customary under law is compelling!

    Think about it — develop a strategy and use every piece of the wedge that she has provided that you can use.

  7. I’m incredulous!

    Why discuss that which is moot?

    Although I agree with the basic premise that one’s property is one’s property (although the “right” to this is no longer, thanks to P.E.T and his constitution) and setbacks for whatever reason must at least be reasonable. Applying this logic to IWT’s assumes these are in some way reasonable.

    As “ruralgrubby” has already stated as have many others, IWT’s do not serve any useful function or purpose. There is no measureable validity to they’re being built in the first place and there never was. Humanity largely abandoned wind energy a century or more ago for good reason.

    If one wants to get off the grid or supplement their power with a backyard wind turbine installed at their own expense, they can knock themselves out. The fact that very few have gone or are going this route speaks volumes as to the efficacy of this technology. IWT’s are simply far bigger versions which wouldn’t exist at all if not for the institutional theft of our money!

    But NO! Lets ignore the facts and dwell on an obvious problem created when one puts a 100 ton, 747 sized, rotating subwoofer atop at 100 meter tall megaphone!

    Jesus H!

    Get real people!

    Sean Holt.

  8. Sean:

    Read what I said very carefully.

    I am not debating whether turbines are useful.

    I am simply stating that someone has made a very good case on how to get rid of them, and prevent them!

    It’s another tool which can be used.

  9. David:

    Make no mistake; I took from it that which was intended.

    However, it is sad commentary that we must use such arguments as a means to rid ourselves
    of the blight of abject incompetence, stupidity and greed that aptly describes the very existence
    of Industrial wind turbines!

    My incredulity arises from the fact that such arguments are even necessary.

    Keep them coming anyway for the reasons you have already provided.

    Sad commentary indeed!

    Sean Holt.

  10. There is no “right” to enjoy one’s property in this country – indeed no property rights exist, at all.

    There is also little doubt that IWT’s serve any useful purpose other than to generate $$$ for developers….however, such inane arguments ARE necessary because millions of inane voters – who, in the end, cause governments to be elected, laws and regulations to be enacted and tax dollars to be wasted.

    One of the few ways one can reach these masses (who continually volunteer to give up huge amounts of tax money for projects and plans that make little sense) – is to appeal to them on the basis of human, animal and environmental health. It may not make too much sense – but it is reality.

    Once the dangers of health threats are proven – justification at many other levels may be demanded (I think).

  11. What is being considered as progress in the fight against IWTs is to locate them away from humans or private property. That means it is ok on Crown land which includes waters. Do the additional miles of new transmission lines not raise a concern? The reality is IWTs are too big to be hidden away and will always be someone’s neighbour. It just may not be human. Wildlife and fish are being treated like a disposable consequence of these utterly useless machines. Industrial wind turbines are such a blatant wasted effort it becomes difficult to justify regulations that are just restricting their location. That is not good enough. Awareness of how useless these machines are should make investors question what can be gained in the long term. If the short term economics did not have the subsidies there would be no need of any IWT regulation. What would be needed is a push to take down the existing IWTs that are degrading people’s lives, degrading our power system, killing wildlife and taking money from our pockets. Nothing less should be expected for the people already suffering and the wildlife lost. Is that too much to hope for? I don’t think so.

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