The recent early settlement of two major wind farm proposals at the Ontario Municipal Board may have pointed the way to avoiding costly procedures and delays in future.
In both instances, the involved municipalities were in favour of the proposals, although they differed in the sense that the proponent in one had taken the municipality to the OMB over a delay in zoning decisions, whereas in the other it was residents who sought OMB intervention.
In the first of the two cases, two residents of Wolfe Island had challenged a municipal bylaw (Township of Frontenac Islands) which had been passed to enable Canadian Renewable Energy Corp. (CREC) to proceed with construction of 86, 2.3- megawatt turbines. CREC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Canadian Hydro Developers (CHD).
In the second, CHD had taken Melancthon Township to the OMB over a delay in enacting the necessary Official Plan and zoning bylaw amendments for about 70, 1.5-MW turbines.
As it turned out in the Melancthon case, the township had delayed a favourable decision pending Ministry of Environment approval of the Environmental Screening Report. Upon receipt of the approval, township council negotiated an “amenities agreement” with CHD, and announced that it would support the proponent’s position at the OMB.
Meantime, some Melancthon residents felt they had been abandoned by the township. The group retained a lawyer to represent their opposition to the project at the OMB. The lawyer, James Feehely of Tottenham, was successful in procuring a resolution of each of the issues raised by members of his group.
By resolving the issues and drafting binding agreements, the Wolfe Island hearing was resolved in less than three days, and the Melancthon one in less than two.
At Wolfe Island, the screening process had not been completed, so the Board’s order was deferred. In Melancthon, the hearing officer delivered an oral order as the ESR had been approved.
The residential concerns in both locations were similar, but not entirely identical. At Wolfe, as expected, one of the conditions was satisfactory completion of the screening process.
In both cases, the proponent and municipality agreed to create a committee to consult, or at least to liaise, on development of the proposal and any further wind farms.
In Melancthon, access roads and power lines are now subject to site plan approval.
There is a requirement for an environmental noise study, visual impact studies, analyses of “potential for adverse shadow or light reflection on sensitive uses,” and an analysis “of any negative impacts on the natural features or the ecological functions of (a list of) natural heritage features.”
The Wolfe Island settlement is specific to the maximum number of annual hours of shadow flicker. (Germany imposes a maximum of 30 a year.)
Icing of the turbines was a major issue at Wolfe Island, as it was with the Enbridge project at Kincardine. (The OMB recently approved that project as well.)
As the turbines are automatically stopped when icing occurs, the danger at Kincardine was viewed as falling of ice (as it does from trees) rather than of “ice throw.” There, the prescribed solution was to post warning signs to keep people away from beneath the turbines during times of icing.
Following the Wolfe Island settlement, CREC project engineer said there had been “a very open and positive discussion of the issues, which led to a positive solution that was voluntarily agreed upon.
“As we continue to be a good neighbour on Wolfe Island for many years, we are pleased that the settlement has improved the working relationship between all of the Parties. Building on that goodwill and spirit of cooperation, a Community Liaison Group will be created to provide a forum for Wolfe Island residents to provide comments, suggestions, and questions about the wind plant.”
Locally, the Amaranth portion of the Melancthon II project remains unresolved as it is going to the OMB in September.
In Amaranth, a principal concern is the transformer substation, where about three neighbours are saying the noise there is excessive. One of those, Paul Thompson, says that a sound barrier has not solved the problem. The substation opposition is to installation of a second transformer.
CHD says, however, that the noise levels at surrounding receptors are within ministry guidelines.
Oddly, although opponents are pointing to the lack of a Certificate of Approval for the transformer, the C of A is being obtained voluntarily by CHD as it was never a requirement. CHD says it volunteered to request a C of A in response to neighbourhood concerns.
Whether or not it will be possible for the parties to reach agreements in Amaranth could not be immediately determined.
By Wes Keller
9 August 2007
[editor’s note: this article has been edited for clarity, with unrelated text removed – NWW]
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