AMHERSTBURG – Some requested more information, others opposed it while the mayor states there is a long way to go relating to the issue of a proposed wind farm near Malden Centre.
The council chambers were packed at the February 26 meeting with most in attendance being there for the two delegations on the wind farm issue. Gengrowth is proposing a wind farm in the area which they say would be five turbines or less.
Mayor Wayne Hurst indicated the matter is far from over.
“I think one of the things you must understand is that before the project does anything, this body would have a public meeting,” said Hurst. “The fact of the matter is as it stands now at the council level, county council has given direction to their county planner that they would certainly meet with municipal planners and in meeting with municipal planners, the objective is there to have input with them so they can put together policies as it relates to wind generations. The purpose of that is to ensure is that every policy is consistent throughout each municipality and throughout the county. Once they do that, they then will put together and put out for Request for Proposals (RFPs). Whoever the successful consultant, they would then be given the task to go away and do the study and come back with the findings to council. Once that is done and that is received and approved by county council, then it comes back to the various municipalities.”
At that point, Hurst said town council will be in a position to make a determination and hold a public meeting and then gather additional information and facts from the community. He added that town council makes decisions on the overall good of the community.
“It’s important that we hold meetings like this so we can collect all of this information, we can take all of the documented facts and we can deal with them and in so doing, we can be in a position to make a qualified decision based on that information,” said Hurst.
Gengrowth is also planning a second public open house in the Spring.
Local resident Allan Parks volunteered his services for an ad hoc committee he feels should be created to study wind energy in Amherstburg. The local farmer and engineer felt he could “add value” to such a committee and noted there are other wind proposals in town as well.
Parks said he is concerned over the “cost of inaction and the costs of inaction” and weigh the pros and cons. Parks believed the proposed wind farm will impact everyone in the community “and at this point I cannot identify if the net effect will be positive or negative.” He said he started researching the project when he first became concerned about Gengrowth’s ability to complete it and have the net outcome be positive.
“That comment is not intended as a negative towards Gengrowth or their employees, however, it is meant to highlight the need for a high level of interaction with the people from the Town of Amherstburg and other affected communities,” said Parks. “The members of this town have an intimate knowledge of our community and the environment in which we live. This information needs to be tapped in such a manner as to ensure that any of the studies or activities, carried out during the environmental assessment, use this knowledge, so that we make an informed decision.”
Parks believed there was information that was lacking in Gengrowth’s planned environmental review adding that he believes the bird study should have been started earlier as he said Canadian geese are starting to line the fields.
Another concern was the proximity of Malden Central and St. Theresa schools. Parks said he had to bring Jeffrey Segal to a map and indicate where the schools were. He stated that the two schools are identified as “Noise Sensitive Buildings” in publication NPC-232 from the Ministry of the Environment.
“That to me is a real concern because the kids are our future,” he said.
A third concern was that a person across from one of the schools hadn’t, as of February 25, been notified through Gengrowth about the development.
“I don’t mean that as a bad thing towards Gengrowth. Mistakes can happen but I think if we were taking a more active role, notification and communication to everybody is key. What I want to highlight here is the importance of communication,” said Parks.
Parks outlined several functions a proposed ad hoc could have, one being an investigative role to seek out information on wind energy and provide that information to council, committees of council or the public as needed. Also, he proposes that such a committee centralize the flow of information in town. Talking to other communities with wind farms was also suggested. He said that in fairness to Gengrowth and any other developer, they would have the proper information to do their studies but at the same time members of the public are given an opportunity to voice their concerns and see studies that are based on facts of what is going on in the community.
“I am aware there is also the ACE Committee (Advisory Committee on the Environment) out there and at this point in time with the amount of work we need to do on this, the amount of people who are interested in this, I don’t want to take away from this. I want to give this the resources and the time that it needs,” said Parks. “I also don’t want to put the rest of our environmental initiatives on hold. I believe the rest of our town should not sit still as we talk about one issue.”
Bill Anderson represented the Essex County Wind Action Group and he stated their opposition to the proposed Gengrowth development. He said the organization was founded by citizens in the county “who are opposed to the installation of industrial sized wind factories.”
Anderson made reference to the Summary of Scientific Research offered by Gengrowth at the latter’s open house Feb. 15.
“CANWEA, which is the Canadian Wind Energy Association and also the source of much of Gengrowth’s research, is not an environmental advocacy group but an organization representing an consortium of some 180 private corporations,” said Anderson.
“CANWEA is dedicated to lobbying our provincial government for legislation guaranteeing subsidies from the province for the wind energy industry.”
Anderson also told council that CANWEA has also heavily lobbied for the removal of municipal barriers such as safe setback guidelines through provincial legislation.
“Misleading and biased information from CANWEA does not make this very credible scientific research, in our opinion,” said Anderson.
Anderson said that usage of electricity is determined by demand in southwestern Ontario and not directly by Amherstburg homes. He believed the statements made by Gengrowth regarding CO2 emissions were suspect and “not based on the science of our grid.”
“Much of Gengrowth’s research has been disputed by other highly credible professionals in the engineering and medical communities that have nothing to gain by the research other than the truth,” said Anderson.
Anderson added that the province guarantees the wind energy industry 11 cents per kilowatt hour under 20 year contracts with an inflationary clause attached.
“We would contend that any artificial noise introduced into our lives on a permanent or an intermittent basis by a wind factory has a definite detrimental effect on our quality of life. Calling noise a nuisance is like calling smog an inconvenience,” he continued.
Large birds are particular susceptible to industrial-sized wind turbines, said Anderson, adding “this has been proven across the world.”
“You will not find any reputable environmental organization that does not agree that turbines should not be placed near important bird areas which I’m sure everyone will agree Malden Township and Essex County is,” said Anderson.
Property values could also be impacted, he said, as well as health and safety, television reception and tourism could also be effected.
“I urge council to take our concerns seriously, use your voice and vote at county council. Stop this unnecessary intrusion that’s pitting neighbour against neighbour,” he said.
By Ron Giofu
Amherstburg Echo staff
6 March 2007
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