After months of hearing residents ask that Meaford’s council take a public stand with regard to the potential industrial wind turbine developments within the municipality, council last night delivered what many had been asking for.
A resolution put forward by Deputy Mayor Harley Greenfield sent a clear signal to residents and wind farm developers alike – wind turbines are not welcome in the Municipality of Meaford.
But before the resolution was voted upon by members of council, a lively debate took place which pitted two councillors who were opposed to the resolution against four who were in favour. Councillor James McIntosh declared a conflict of interest and did not participate in the debate or the vote.
“Whereas the Municipality of Meaford is currently faced with an Industrial Wind Turbine Farm application in and around what is known as Silcote corners; and Whereas a substantial number of our residents, from all corners of our community, have voiced opposition to the acceptance of this project, and, whereas troublesome negative effects, such as adverse health effects, decrease in property values, destruction of the natural view-scape, and overall deterioration in individual quality of life are feared by near and far neighbours of this proposed site; and Whereas the Council of the Municipality of Meaford frustratingly acknowledges that any decision they make cannot overrule the powers given by the province in the Green Energy Act,” began Greenfield’s resolution.
In recent months pressure has been increasing on council to send a clear message with regard to industrial wind turbines, and the final paragraph of the resolution did just that.
“Now Therefore, regardless of the undemocratic terms of Ontario Bill 150, be it resolved that the Council of the Municipality of Meaford confirms that it is not desirous of any Industrial Wind turbine development within our corporation, and requests that developers of wind farms do not submit further applications within our municipal boundaries,” read the resolution.
The debate that ensued amongst councillors was at times lively.
“First of all I would like to make it quite clear that I am not against greening, or many aspects of the Green Energy Act for that matter,” said Greenfield when introducing the resolution.
Greenfield told council that he is in favour of solar panel farms, hydro electricity generation and other forms of green energy, however explained that he does take exception to the planning powers having been taken away from municipalities when the Green Energy Act was introduced in 2009.
Greenfield said that the McGuinty Liberal government has sent signals in recent months that they do not want to impose wind turbines on communities where they are not wanted, and Greenfield expressed to council that the time is right for making a formal declaration.
“We’ve got a window of opportunity here, and I suggest we take this opportunity to say no,” offered Greenfield.
Councillor Deborah Young had a much different take on the issue.
“As I’ve said before when we were discussing this, I will not be voting in favour of this, and I’ll give you several reasons. I believe that we have taken an enormous amount of time listening to objections to the wind turbines. I have received many emails over the last two and a half years, and once again I have to say that in 2009 when the Green Energy Act was passed, yes they did take away our planning powers. One of the reasons would have been that you can’t have one municipality that wants the Green Energy Act and all that it involves, and then in the next municipality, it would be a checker board,” offered Young.
Young also said that she doesn’t believe that passing such a resolution would deter wind turbine developments in the Municipality of Meaford.
“Is this a window of opportunity to stop the wind turbines? No. I don’t believe that, unless the government goes down, and the Green Energy Act is removed entirely,” said Young.
Young’s lengthy speech was interrupted when a resident sitting in the council gallery expressed that what Young was saying was “baloney.”
Councillor Young demanded an apology before continuing. Mayor Francis Richardson reminded the public that they could not offer comment during council debate. Richardson asked the resident to apologize to which he responded that he would apologize to council, but not to Councillor Young.
The refusal to offer an apology resulted in a delay in the debate of approximately two minutes when the council chamber was silent, after which an apology to council was offered, and Young resumed her speech.
“I will not be bullied,” said Young who suggested that those opposed to wind turbines were a vocal minority and that she has heard from more people who agree with her position than oppose it.
Councillor Lynda Stephens sided with Young, and agreed that the issue was a provincial concern.
“A municipal bylaw does not supersede a provincial act,” offered Stephens who also said that she believes that there are residents who do indeed want wind turbine developments in the municipality.
Councillor Mike Poetker who is a local real estate salesperson expressed a firm belief that wind turbines would be bad for the municipality.
“I haven’t had had anyone come to me and say ‘Can you find me something near a windmill?’ They don’t. They say the opposite, and I am dealing with people now who are leaving an area with windmills,” said Poetker adding that the first questions of many prospective home buyers is whether there are plans for wind turbines, “And if so they don’t want to be there.”
Poetker estimated that property values of homes in the proximity of wind turbines could plunge 30 percent, though he added that properties could very well lose all of there value as there would be no buyers for such properties.
Mayor Richardson took the opportunity to speak to the issue himself, something that he rarely does.
“I think it’s important that the public knows what all of us feel, and I can’t comment when I’m in the (mayor’s) chair,” said Richardson who turned over the chair to Deputy Mayor Greenfield, “This has been an incredibly difficult situation. We have received literally thousands of pages. We all have our various reasons for whether we are for or against.”
Richardson who told council that he hasn’t heard from a single person in favour of wind turbine developments in the municipality, said that the intent of the resolution is to let wind developers know that Meaford does not want industrial wind developments in the community.
“We are not going to the province and saying ‘we’re going to fight you’,” said Richardson, “Because of the way it’s worded, the request will go to industrial wind turbine developers not to come.”
When it came time for a vote, Councillor Stephens hesitated before voting and appeared to be considering voting in favour, however she ultimately voted against, and the resolution passed 4 – 2 with both Stephens and Young voting against.
The gallery erupted with applause after the resolution was passed.