A wind turbine will stand at the CAW Family Education Centre.
The decision came last week after the project which had been turned down by the Town of Saugeen Shores was overturned by the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).
The ruling was made April 20, after the 20-day hearing wrapped up in four, at the municipal office.
OMB Chair J.P. Atcheson decided the single use, 600-kilowatt, 100- metre turbine wouldn’t have a significant impact on the surrounding residents or area and fits the Provincial Policy Statement for renewable energy projects.
Saugeen Shores Mayor Mike Smith said there are no hard feelings about the decision, adding that sometimes council’s decisions don’t lean in its favour.
“That’s what happens when you go to the OMB,” said Smith. “We have faith in the system, but don’t always agree with the outcome.”
Smith rejected concerns about the town’s earlier decision hurting the local relationship with CAW, saying it was a difference of opinion on the municipal planning documents.
He said the OMB decision reinforces the democratic process when appeals are resolved, regardless of the final outcome.
The OMB ruled that since the turbine is not for commercial use but is to offset the CAW Family Education Centre’s electricity costs, it’s not in the same ballpark as large-scale wind farms.
Concerns about the turbine being located too close to the Port Elgin Airport were also dismissed, as Transport Canada and Nav Canada information was taken over the concerns from local pilots, Smith said.
The OMB looked upon the visual impact of the turbine as no different than the erection of a transmission line, meteorological or cell phone tower. It also ruled that noise concerns surrounding the project fall within the Ministry of Environment’s provincial guidelines. But as part of the compromise, the CAW was instructed to develop a decommissioning plan, emergency plan and safety manual to the satisfaction of the municipality.
Signage for ice throw and shadow flicker will also be required in the parking lot by the site, in the north-east corner of the property. The CAW also been instructed to plant trees along Bruce Road 25, to mitigate the visual impact on neighbouring residents.
Saugeen Shores’ 2006 Official Plan would restrict these types of wind projects within the municipality’s urban envelope, but it’s currently under appeal and inactive.
“(The 2006 bylaw) would have had an impact,” Smith said.
“But they made the applications before we finished the new plan” so the new regulations had no impact on the project.”
Dean Fowler, director the CAW Family Education Centre, said they’re happy with the decision and added they’re “well on their way” as they continue to work with the municipality on the site plan requirements.
Fowler said the visual concerns are a personal opinion and not a planning issue.
Although previously raised as a concern, the proposed subdivision next to the facility didn’t come up as an issue during the hearing. Developer Andy Kuperus, who is planning a subdivision next to the project, said he was in Florida at the time of the hearing and thought it had been postponed.
Kuperus said he had just picked documentation on the decision and didn’t like the sound of it. He didn’t know if his attendance would have had an impact on the hearing.
“Everyone and the government is thinking green, so how do you fight it?” he asked.
Rolf Koenig, a 35-year resident of Sieffert Crescent, next to CAW, said he trusted a local lawyer to deliver his case to the OMB while he was in Florida, but “it never happened”.
“I expected it would be taken care of, but it wasn’t,” said Koenig. “I left it in the town’s and county’s hands, but obviously that didn’t work either. Now we can look forward to a 100-metre monstrosity.”
Koenig blamed the outcome on the lack of resistance from the public at the OMB hearing, and from local groups like the Beacher’s Associations failing to stand up against the project.
The only presentation against the project, made during the hearing, was by the Port Elgin Airport.
“We understand (the airport’s) side of it,” said Fowler, “but we had our experts there to deal with their concerns. We felt (the OMB) made the right decision and we’ll be working with the town on the other issues.”
In terms of impact on local tourism, Fowler said people will get used to turbines as they become more common in the area and that people may look upon them as landmarks in the future.
The four appellants to originally come forward last fall including Koenig and Kupers, were Pat Martin on behalf of the Port Elgin Flying Club, and Kevin Yaraskavitch, a local resident and pilot.
The turbine will be designed to feed the grid and will produce enough electricity to offset the facility’s power usage by 75 to 80 per cent, when blowing at full capacity.
“We’re trying to help take some of the load off the system,” said Fowler. “We’re doing our part and if everyone did this there’d be far less emissions.”
Turbines take a while to order, he said, so they’re not expecting the turbine to arrive for at least a year. Until then, they’ll be working with the municipality to iron out the rest of the creases in the proposal.
“We have to make sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed,” he said.
By Troy Patterson
1 May 2007