Wind turbines seem to be either the devil’s handiwork or a quick efficient way to provide energy.
And Ralph Pugliese, the director of planning for Chatham-Kent, says that since there are applications to build the turbines, the municipality must deal with the issue.
The municipality has endorsed the need for alternative energy and says there is a “robust wind energy resource in Chatham-Kent.”
Pugliese outlined the planning process used when he spoke to the Sunrise Rotary Club of Chatham on Feb. 12.
He pointed out that all applications for wind turbines go through zoning procedures and rigorous environmental assessments, that can take up to a year.
There’s also a requirement for public meetings such as the one that began at the Chatham-Kent council chambers the previous evening. Several people spoke at that meeting and some people offered to provide written submissions.
All applications go through technical committees at the municipal level and items may be referred to experts, said Pugliese.
An environmental assessment looks at several issues such as noise, property values, the economic impact on the community, and the impact on birds. It also looks at electromagnetic interference and the visual impact of the turbines.
The Official Plan of Chatham-Kent encourages the development of wind energy systems and states that wind farms will normally be built on large parcels of agricultural land having “limited residential development on-site or nearby.”
The sites are also to be separate from urban areas and are to have access roads (built at the company’s expense) to accommodate construction and maintenance.
If a site is no longer used, it is up to the turbine’s owner to keep up the road. Some farmers however, want to keep those roads for access to their properties, he said.
The turbines must be set back from “sensitive residential and institutional land uses to provide safety from falling ice.”
They must be set back 600 metres from any residential or institutional zone, 450 metres from an industrial or commercial zone and 300 metres from an offsite residential dwelling.
The setback must be 1.25 times the height of the turbine or 250 metres for on site dwellings, whichever is greater, Pugliese said.
The use of the lot for wind turbines, accessory buildings and structures, road access and storage areas cannot exceed 10% of the lot area.
The minimum yard width must be 1.0 times the total length of the rotor blade plus 10 metres from the base of the tower to the lot line and any public road right-of-way.
Accessory wind turbines may be located in agricultural zones, rural and estate residential zones where the minimum setback is 1.25 times the height of the turbine.
Pugliese said that site plans and agreements are required to determine the location of roads, accessory buildings, vegetative buffers, and storm water management procedures.
Most of the comments from Rotarians indicated they were opposed to the idea of wind turbines being placed in nearby Dover.
Pugliese pointed out that whatever stance Chatham-Kent council takes, it must be able to substantiate on planning grounds.
Steve Pickard, a Rotarian and a municipal councillor, told the meeting that if council approves the applications, the opponents would likely take the issue to the Ontario Municipal Board. And if it turned down the plans, the proponents would likely do the same thing.
Chatham-Kent has already approved about 40 wind turbines in the Port Alma area. An opponent took the issue to the OMB, but it was settled without a hearing.
Turbines can be as high as 400 feet tall (a 40-storey building) and are made of up to 150 tons of steel. They hook into the power grid and can provide electricity for an individual or for the general usage, depending on how much is produced.
In Chatham-Kent and Essex there are about 450 megawatts of space available.
Companies approach landowners in a community to lease land for a wind turbine. Landowners have the choice to accept or reject the turbines and the municipality does not have the right to expropriate land.
Land values in abutting areas were among the questions asked by Rotary members. Some suggested that the values decline, but Pugliese said information from the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) states that is not the case.
Turbines would provide close to $100,000 in annual revenue through tax assessment, he added.
20 February 2008
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