Municipalities in Essex County should be careful about where to allow wind farms, to avoid conflicts in areas where future residential growth is also expected, says a past president of the Greater Windsor Home Builders Association.
Room for expansion of urbanized areas has to be planned for decades to come, said Ben Klundert, owner of BK Cornerstone Design Build. He’s been active as a builder in Lakeshore.
Klundert said residential property developers and home builders haven’t paid much attention so far to the ongoing debate about wind energy and where new projects are best located.
That could change soon, he said.
Klundert said many home builders strive for energy efficiency in their projects and are generally supportive of wind energy as a green technology.
However, 100-metre-high wind turbines aren’t going to enhance home sales if located too close to planned residential areas, he said.
Wind turbines are probably comparable to hydro transmission towers in terms of negative impacts on nearby property values, he said, although wind turbines are two to three times higher than hydro towers. Klundert said he could understand the logic of siting wind turbines on agricultural lands because they have a small footprint and farming can continue underneath.
The conflicts with future residential development could come in places like the Wallace Woods planning area along County Road 22 in Lakeshore, where there’s potential for rezoning thousands of acres of farmland for residential, commercial and industrial development, Klundert said.
If a row of wind turbines goes up nearby, the Wallace Woods area may be less attractive for residential development, Klundert said.
Ray Duhamel, of Jones Consulting Group of Oakville, said the draft planning policies in the county for wind energy provide a one-kilometre buffer between existing “settlement areas” and wind turbines. Klundert wondered if one kilometre would be enough to accommodate future growth and still have a reasonable buffer for homeowners worried about property values.
Tom Storey, the planning consultant for Lakeshore, said the town hasn’t yet heard anything from residential builders and developers regarding concerns about the locations of wind turbines.
In Chatham-Kent, a 600-metre buffer between existing homes and wind turbines now under construction seems to have satisfied residents, Storey said.
The Kruger Energy Port Alma project has 44 turbines over 4,800 hectares of farmland. It’s expected to begin operating in late 2008.
Here, the $500-million Brookfield Power wind farm project over 8,900 hectares of Kingsville and Lakeshore farmland is poised to become Canada’s biggest with its planned 151 turbines.
Storey said the Brookfield project appears to fit in well with the county’s draft planning policies that were presented at a public meeting Wednesday.
Storey said Brookfield might have to check the siting of some of its turbines near Comber to meet the suggested one-kilometer buffer.
Of the large-scale projects locally, Brookfield’s is the one furthest along in the planning and environmental assessment approval process.
By Gary Rennie
13 December 2007
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