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New wind power rules churn through council

After a lengthy hearing into the pros and cons of how wind turbines affect neighbours, Pictou County council passed a bylaw Monday night to govern the development of wind power in the municipality.

Councillors voted 9-2 in favour of the county’s land-use bylaw, including minor amendments. Three were absent from the meeting.

Despite the wishes of people living near a large wind farm proposed by ShearWind Inc. of Halifax for Baileys Brook at the Pictou-Antigonish county line, councillors decided against increasing the distance between wind turbines and homes.

The law is the most restrictive in the province, Warden Allister MacDonald said Tuesday. It calls for future Pictou County wind turbines to be 600 metres from homes, 100 metres more than in other jurisdictions.

Local people asked at Monday night’s hearing that the distance be increased to a kilometre or more to reduce noise pollution.

But the approval process locked county council into the bylaw as laid out in the document introduced at the bylaw’s first reading in early August, with only minor amendments allowed.

The second reading was Monday night, followed by a public hearing and council’s decision.

“You can vote for the document or you can reject the document,” Mr. MacDonald said, adding that major changes would mean starting the process over.

In the meantime, there would be no rules governing wind turbines, and developers could do whatever they wanted, he said. There are now three turbines in Pictou County two at Fitzpatrick Mountain near Scotsburn and one at Marshville, west of River John.

At the request of one of the developers, council began late in 2006 to look into rules governing wind power and held a series of meetings and study sessions to draft the bylaw.

“We tried to reach a happy balance of supporting the development of wind energy and protecting our residents,” Mr. MacDonald said.

While some people are unhappy with the setbacks, some developers don’t like the requirement to determine proper boundaries because surveys are expensive, he said.

“We’re not going to completely satisfy either,” he said.

The bylaw now has to be reviewed by planners at Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations and, if approved there, must be ratified by the minister before it’s enacted.

“Until the minister has the final say on that document, there can’t be any amendments,” Mr. MacDonald said, adding that he expects that to happen before Christmas.

Changes may be made later, he said.

Several developers want to supply electricity from wind power to Nova Scotia Power and the utility has to decide which to accept, he said.

“So it’s a big gamble for the wind turbine people,” he said, predicting the day when the turbines will be an accepted part of the landscape.

“No one is opposed to wind energy, just the bylaw,” he said, adding that there’s not a lot of vacant, remote land in Nova Scotia. “It’s got to go in somebody’s backyard.”

By Monica Graham

The Chronicle Herald

12 September 2007