The need for proper setbacks in Chatham-Kent between wind turbines and homes and natural settings was voiced loudly Tuesday by Chatham businessman Harry Verhey.
Verhey told Chatham Sunrise Rotary Club members – of which he is a member – that he isn’t challenging the use of wind turbines, but is convinced there is an urgent need to determine setbacks that are right for the municipality.
“The recent proliferation of industrial wind projects will have a negative impact on the community,” he said. “The massive size of industrial wind turbines conflicts with the scale and character of the Chatham-Kent landscape.”
Verhey said the improper siting of industrial wind turbines will result in the loss of the scenic rural landscape, wildlife habitats and migration routes, peace, quiet and health of our citizens and future economic development opportunities.
Verhey made his comments while introducing Chatham-Kent planning official Ralph Pugliese, the club’s guest speaker.
“We are a unique community and cannot follow provincial minimum setback guidelines of only 250 to 600 metres,” said Verhey.
He said there is a need to come up with new setbacks that are right for the municipality.
“I love this community, its people, the rural landscape and the lifestyle available to us here,” said Verhey. “It’s my hope we will all be able to feel the same way in the future.”
Verhey noted Chatham-Kent is playing host to applications for the installation of hundreds of industrial-sized wind turbines.
“These turbines are of monstrous proportion,” he said. “The Greenfield Ethanol plant stack in Chatham is 260 feet high. The proposed turbines are nearly 400 feet high – as tall as a 40-storey apartment building.”
Verhey said there are many questions regarding how wind turbine developments will affect the surrounding area.
“Will property values decrease, will it stop new construction and future housing developments near by, is wildlife at risk and are there negative health affects?” he asked.
Verhey said he’s convinced the public is unaware of wind turbine developments in Chatham-Kent, planned locations for each turbine and any associated adverse affects.
“We need to evaluate the landscape of the potentially-affected areas, consult with the public and develop a criteria for the public input process,” he said.
Verhey said ads run in local papers by the proponents of wind farms aren’t enough – “for the most part the public is unaware of turbine developments and locations.”
He said significant cultural heritage landscapes, important bird areas, which include wetlands and staging areas, shorelines, the Thames River valley, small rural community’s areas for future development and rural homes need to be protected.
Club member Paul Roy of Pain Court said there is a need for the municipality to hold public meetings to help clear up the confusion that exists about wind turbines.
Larry and Linda Reaume of Erie Beach, club guests, said they would never have purchased their “dream” home at Erie Beach if they knew wind turbines were going to be erected in their backyard.
“We looked for a place to buy for years and finally settled on a home near the lake in south Chatham-Kent in 2006,” said Larry Reaume. “We had no idea the area was ripe for wind turbines.”
Pugliese said it’s only right that residents of Chatham-Kent should be concerned about their community.
“We do have a robust wind energy resource here,” he said.
He said policies and standards that have been adopted by Chatham-Kent on wind power have been developed with the experience of other areas in mind.
“The planning analysis conducted on wind development is comprehensive and combined with the requirements of provincial guidelines,” he said.
Pugliese told his morning audience that numerous approvals are required before a wind project can get off the ground.
“We rely on experts that go through a process that is rigorous,” he said.
Club guest Jules Roy said Chatham-Kent should leave room for solar and other alternative projects coming down the line.
By Bob Boughner
13 February 2008
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