VARNA – Bluewater council has thrown its support behind a proposed boundary for wind developments around Zurich.
At its Dec. 5 meeting, council voted unanimously to endorse a boundary proposed by the Zurich and District Chamber of Commerce (ZDCC).
The motion also calls for Bluewater council and staff to help lobby to change the boundary for wind projects to the boundary proposed by the ZDCC, and that this position apply to Bluewater’s other urban areas.
The move came after a Dec. 5 presentation from ZDCC member Robert Westlake, who said council may not have the necessary authority to state where boundaries must be.
He suggested council does “have responsibility and the right … to protect your citizens.”
Westlake said the roads and services of the municipality will be called upon by various energy firms if wind projects proceed.
“As such, you have influence in various aspects of the projects, and that can also include project boundaries,” he said.
The square-shaped boundary requested by the ZDCC extends east of Zurich to about half a mile past Babylon Line; south of Zurich to about half a mile past Rodgerville Road; west to about half a mile past Bronson Line; and north to about half a mile past Danceland Road.
If accommodated, the boundary would remove a portion of Zurich and its surrounding area from the study area for the proposed Goshen Wind Energy Centre.
It would also remove an area north of Zurich from the study area for the proposed Bluewater Wind Energy Centre.
Westlake said in an interview ZDCC is “simply asking for the boundaries to be moved from their present position to give more space around the Village of Zurich that will not be in the project area.”
Westlake told the Times-Advocate the ZDCC is still in the negotiating stage with NextEra, but said NextEra has promised to get back to the ZDCC by Jan. 15.
In his presentation to council Westlake said there are 1,000 people living in the immediate Zurich area, adding these people “wish to continue to live in a healthy, productive and prosperous community.”
He said information from other parts of Ontario indicate real estate values fall when wind turbine projects are nearby and suggested it’s understandable that people “will be hesitant to invest in property where there is a potential threat to real estate values.”
As previously reported, NextEra’s Nicole Geneau told Bluewater council Nov. 21 her company has not experienced a reduction in property values near any of its wind projects and cited studies she claimed have not seen a reduction in property values.
On its website, NextEra claims there is, “no evidence to show a decline in property values from the siting of a wind farm.”
Westlake listed other concerns about wind turbines, including “health, noise, vibration, safety, stray voltage and more.”
“Whether or not all of these concerns have been verified, to the property-buying public … it can become a ‘buyer beware,’” he said. “And when you don’t have buyers, prices fall.”
Westlake told council the only acceptable boundaries for current and future wind turbine projects are those that meet local requirements.
“The current boundaries shown for (the) Zurich area are not acceptable,” he added.
After his presentation, Westlake asked council to pass a resolution to endorse the ZDCC’s boundary proposal.
He suggested NextEra and other wind energy firms will be making more and more contact with municipal staff and on occasion, council.
Westlake asked that when council and staff are approached by wind energy companies, they ask if the companies have come to an agreement with the ZDCC to move the boundaries around Zurich to that suggested by the ZDCC.
Zurich Coun. Janisse Zimmerman made a similar motion, asking that council endorse the ZDCC boundary.
The motion also suggested that in discussions with energy companies, municipal councillors and staff “look at keeping the boundaries as far away as we can from our main urban centres.”
Councillor-at-Large Tyler Hessel said he would support the motion, noting recent infrastructure upgrades to develop Zurich.
“The idea is that it grows, and all we’re doing is restricting it by letting them have the boundary as it is,” Hessel said.
Hensall Coun. Kay Wise said she would support the motion, “simply because I don’t like being told what to do.”
Stanley West Coun. George Irvin said he would also support the motion, though he wished council could extend the boundary to the Greater Toronto Area.
Council voted unanimously in a recorded vote to endorse the boundary proposed by the ZDCC and for council and staff to help lobby to change the boundary to that proposed by the ZDCC.
The motion was amended to state this position applies to Bluewater’s other urban areas.
Deputy Mayor Paul Klopp and Hay East Coun. John Becker declared conflicts of pecuniary interest on the matter and did not vote or participate in the discussion.
Mayor Bill Dowson did not declare a conflict of pecuniary interest on the matter, and participated in the vote.
As previously reported, Dowson is facing an application under Section 9 of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.
According to an affidavit from applicant Bill MacDougall, Dowson’s participation in a May 16 council vote on wind turbines, along with his failure to declare a conflict of interest pursuant to relevant portions of the Act, gave rise to the application.
The matter is scheduled to come before the courts in January.
Dowson said in an interview he feels strongly Bluewater needs to protect its villages, adding later that it’s a “separate issue from say, placing turbines here and there around the municipality on certain roads or lines … or where they’re going.”
Dowson said later in the interview he felt the Dec. 5 discussion about wind turbines did not personally affect him because it was on setbacks around the villages.
After the Dec. 5 vote, Hay West Coun. John Gillespie asked about a previous motion to charge wind energy companies a $25,000 annual fee for each turbine erected in Bluewater.
He also suggested the possibility of wind energy companies putting up a bond against negative impacts that might result from the installation and operation of turbines.
Gillespie said Bluewater should start negotiating, adding he believes Bluewater has a number of cards it can play.
Bayfield Coun. Geordie Palmer asked that the matter be added to the next council agenda.