By Sara Campbell
Wednesday August 23, 2006
Lucknow Sentinel – A heated discussion occurred last week at the Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh Twp. council meeting about the proposed setback requirements for wind turbines.
More than 50 township residents filled the council chambers on Aug. 15 to discuss the proposed setback requirements for wind turbines. The setback requirements include 400 metres from a residential building and a 600 metre setback from urban settlements.
Monica Walker-Bolton, of the Huron County Planning Department, said she recommends that council defer a decision on the setback requirements until a later meeting. She said they are waiting on comments from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and would also like to add any recommendations from the public before the bylaw is passed.
Walker-Bolton said setback requirements for turbines is an issue being discussed in many other municipalities and the entire planning department staff is working together on the requirements.
Steve Brindley asked whether the bylaw takes into consideration wood lot areas and distances to creeks. Walker-Bolton said the turbines could not be constructed in a Natural Environment area.
“We want to protect the environment and the company does not want to locate next to trees,” she said, adding that there are setback requirements for waterways.
Reeve Ben Van Diepenbeek said they were also considering a 300m setback for waterways and municipal drains.
“We consider all the environmental, social and economical affects,” said
Susan Shaw, business development consultant for EPCOR.
“In addition to the municipal requirements, we have to follow the Ministry of Environment regulations and the fishery department looks at all sites.”
Brindley questioned what they were going to do about the noise coming from the turbines. He added that neighbours were not consulted when the turbines were built.
Shaw said they are having problems with some of the turbines and will continue to rework them until the end of September when they should all be in compliance with the noise regulations.
One township resident added that her family is experiencing severe headaches and are unable to sleep at night because of the noise and flickering red lights on the turbines.
Ken Brindley said he has seen reports that state the flicker of the lights and the noise are causing serious health problems for people where other wind turbines have been built.
Shaw said she had not seen any research that indicates the turbines are causing health problems. She said if there is more than one turbine in an area, the sound could be intensified.
“Our health is something we hold dear to our hearts. If these are causing health problems more research needs to be done,” said resident Barry Millian.
Doug Scott asked whether EPCOR was going to be addressing the concerns with the flickering lights. Shaw said they are currently meeting the minimum lighting requirements by Transport Canada but they also have to follow the federal aviation requirements with regards to the brightness and separation distance of the lights.
Lawrence Hogan said neighbours were not consulted before the turbines were built. He said that he feels his land has been devalued now with the turbines next door.
Van Diepenbeek questioned whether EPCOR would compensate landowners who feel their property has devalued.
Shaw said she would have to review their policy.
“When we were given the land we had leased, we proceeded to layout the wind turbine farm with the turbines far enough apart to meet the noise and separation distance requirements,” said Shaw.
Ken Brindley asked who would be liable if a wind turbine fell down on a township road and if someone was hurt.
Shaw said EPCOR would be responsible if they lost a blade or if the turbine broke because it is their equipment.
Walker-Bolton said, although it is not a planning department issue, a person could sue whomever they want but it is up to the courts to decide who is liable if someone was hurt. She said that is why they are proposing setbacks.
Several residents stated that when they phone or visit the EPCOR office in Goderich with concerns or questions they do not get call backs or answers. Some residents also said they would like to see the setback requirements at 1,000m and to have the turbines shut down until they all meet the noise regulations.
Van Diepenbeek said the township wants to be sure EPCOR is willing to stand behind their product as they are going to be here for a long time. He said 69 more turbines are planned to go up in the township and council feels that the setbacks are not that restrictive and EPCOR is willing to meet their requirements.
Shaw agreed, adding that they “hope to be good neighbours.”
Walker-Bolton took a survey as to whether the residents feel the township’s requirements are too restrictive or not restrictive enough. The majority voted that the requirements were not restrictive enough while only two residents thought that the requirements were too restrictive and others were undecided.
Council will be meeting again with the planning department on Sept. 6 to discuss any changes that should be made to the requirements. If any changes are to be made, it will be open for discussion again for the public at the following council meeting, on Sept. 19.
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