ESSEX – Reaction Wednesday from the public and politicians to Essex County’s draft policies for wind energy projects covered the spectrum of anger to praise.
Although about half the county – mostly the rural middle – would be wide open for the building of wind turbines, that didn’t satisfy many who felt the remaining restrictions would scare developers away.
Others felt not enough was done to protect this area’s limited natural resources, scarce wildlife and international reputation for migrating birds, bats and monarch butterflies.
Homeowners were worried about property values declining if 120-metretall turbines ended up being built too close. The structures would be the largest in mostly flat Essex County and visible for many kilometres.
But many farmers said they are keen to lease their lands for wind turbines for the royalties promised and concerns for birds were overemphasized.
County officials had a separate 21/2 hour briefing and about 150 people came out later for a two-hour public session.
Ray Duhamel and Tim Cane of the Jones Group said the draft policies are for consultation and the final proposals won’t be out until late January.
Based on research to date, the consultants mapped Essex County into three areas: A narrow strip along the Detroit River, Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair shoreline about 200 metres wide where large wind turbines would be prohibited; a five-kilometre zone also near the shorelines where wind turbines could be located with supporting environmental studies and official plan amendments; and the central area of the county where projects were encouraged to locate.
The consultants also suggested private woodlots larger than two hectares should be “no-go” zones in a county with only five per cent natural cover.
Most of the public and political debate was whether the five-kilometre zone and privately owned woodlots should face the restrictions suggested.
“It’s about time we got off this bird and bat thing,” said Tilbury North farmer Paul Courey.
“You’re studying it to death.”
Courey argued the consultants were doing environmental assessment and not land-use planning. The five-kilometre zone “is way too restrictive,” said Harrow farmer Joe Gorski.
But Bill Anderson, the Amherstburg chair of a citizens’ group concerned about the negative impacts of wind energy, pointed out most of the county’s residents live within the five-kilometre zone along the three shorelines.
NOISE, VIBRATIONS, SHADOWS
“You don’t want to put them where there’s a lot of residents,” said Anderson. The noise, vibrations and shadows cast by the 100-metre high towers and blades aren’t going to be welcomed by those not paid to host them, he said.
Leamington Deputy Mayor Rob Schmidt said minimum setbacks of 500 metres should be in the draft policies to separate wind turbines from homeowners not paid to accept them.
But Lakeshore Deputy Mayor Bob Sylvester said the five-kilometre zone was too restrictive in his town and he’d do everything possible to change it.
Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara said locating wind turbines carefully was important to continued development of “eco-tourism” in the county.
The planners for Essex County’s seven municipalities and the county are meeting with the consultants today to review the draft policies and public comments.
Gary Rennie, Windsor Star
Thursday, December 13, 2007
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