Council quickly put a stop Monday to a wind power company’s proposed research tower in rural Meaford, at least for now.
AIM Powergen Corporation’s applications were much too vague for all but one councillor in the five-to-one vote against amending several zoning bylaws.
Approval would have allowed research towers built throughout the municipality on any Rural A, A1 and A2 zoned agricultural land.
The zoning bylaws already permit property owners or public utilities to erect the tall, thin towers meant to measure the wind speed. The amendments would have removed what Gerry Murphy, the municipality’s director of development services called “a technicality.”
“It’s not a question of if the towers should be allowed, but who should be allowed to put a tower up,” Murphy said during a public meeting before Monday’s regular council session.
Murphy also told the meeting the “tall flagpole” is essential to collect data and determine if rural Meaford areas can support wind power generation, but wouldn’t mean turbines result.
Some councillors doubted that, calling the application the thin edge of a wedge and saying it must instead review each tower application, knowing the precise location and giving neighbours a chance to comment early in the process.
AIM Powergen spokesman Tim Sullivan said just one tower was planned, in the former Sydenham Township, but did not disclose the location.
Coun. Mike Traynor said he was “suspicious” about both the process and the lack of information.
Coun. Cynthia Lemon said approving the bylaw amendments would be “naive.”
“I don’t feel at all comfortable with a broad intent that says put it anywhere,” Lemon said. “I’d like to see the bylaw on the table tonight and I’d like it defeated.”
Only Coun. Jim McPherson voted for the bylaw, saying several times it allowed just the research, while many layers of subsequent approval waited before any turbines could go up.
Before the vote, Mayor Wally Reif asked Murphy what options defeating the bylaw amendment left for AIM Powergen Corporation.
AIM could appeal the decision, make new, site specific applications or look elsewhere for possible wind turbine locations.
Two people spoke against the project.
“Turn them down,” Keith Mustard told council, calling the proposed amendments an “absolutely dreadful imposition on agricultural land.” He later held up a sign reading “NO” before the vote.
Mustard also said there was too little public awareness of the proposed amendments for council to decide the issue.
Jim Bruno listed problems with wind farms in other municipalities and told the meeting it was unfair to approve blanket bylaw changes.
“If you don’t know where (the research towers) are, then the people that are going to be affected by them aren’t likely to show up to express their opinions,” he said.
Reif said after the meeting the vote doesn’t at all close the door on wind power projects in Meaford, but indicates a growing wariness about wind farms.
“I’m not against wind generation as a lot of people are, but I am not in favour necessarily of having 100 wind turbines very close together. I’d rather see a more distributed system.”
Assessing a specific request and location would remove the uncertainties, Reif added.
“I don’t think it’s the pole itself, I think it’s what it represents. I think what we’re visualizing here is potentially now there’s towers everywhere and all of a sudden we have wind farms everywhere,” Reif said.
“It appears that’s not what they want. So if that’s not what they want I think they have to play it a little more open with us.”
By Bill Henry
14 November 2007
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