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Wind farms location; Public show concern

Bluewater Council considered a proposed zoning by-law amendment to introduce regulations governing the location of wind energy facilities within the municipality. Council anticipated to defer the by-law to permit further discussion. That recommendation was later passed.

In a report from Senior Planner, Craig Metzger, it is recommended that the by-law amendment be approved. It is also recommended that the draft for the site plan guidelines be adopted by council.

The zoning by-laws for Bayfield, Zurich and Hensall are proposed to be amended to permit small scale wind energy facilities (under 50kW) subject to certain location restrictions while prohibiting all commercial scale wind energy facilities in the area covered by these zoning by-laws.

The by-laws for Stanley and Hay are proposed to be amended to permit small scale facilities under 50 kW in urban zones and under 500kW in agricultural zones, all subject to certain location restrictions. These two by-laws are also proposed to be amended to permit commercial scale wind energy facilities in agricultural zones subject to location restrictions while prohibiting these facilities west of Highway 21.

A Bluewater resident came forward at Monday night’s regular council meeting with concerns of the wind energy project.

“I’m not sure enough homework has been done,” says the resident, a recreational property owner. Questions about the size, noise, effects such as shadows from the blades, property values, tourist areas, stray voltage and livestock were raised. “How much thought has gone into this?” he continued. “There has been very little experience with wind energy in Bluewater.”

George Irvin, Stanley West Ward Councillor, agrees with the points made and says the by-law should be deferred and they need to spend more time on this. Bill MacDougall, Hay West Ward Councillor says, “The gentleman had good points. We should have a better understanding.”

“We need to be sure, you’re right,” says Mayor Bill Dowson. “A lot of people are directly involved and counting on it. We need to hear both sides and have to be sure all sides are explained.” Dowson says questions need to be answered by people with the qualifications to be fair to all the people. A gallery member suggested Council receive a presentation about wind energy to become more informed.

In considering a zoning by-law, reports Metzger, council should be aware that both the Provincial Policy Statement, 2005 and the Bluewater Official Plan are supportive of wind energy facilities locating in the municipality. Both the PPS and the OP strive to minimize the impact of these facilities on agriculture.

A public open house was held in regards to wind energy between Grand Bend and St. Joseph’s in Varna on June 29, 2006. A special meeting for public comment on wind energy, has been set for April 10 at 7 p.m. “This is your chance,” says Dowson. “Speak up.”

By Kimberley Powell