An ongoing dispute over a proposal for commercial wind turbines in Amaranth will return to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) this week. Township council endorsed a series of outstanding agreements with Canadian Hydro Developers Wednesday evening, though a critical issue has yet to be resolved.
Those approvals open the way for a lengthy OMB hearing to resume. In November, hearing officer Norman Jackson agreed to withhold his order until the agreements approved by council this week were finalized.
He also decreed the hearing would continue to receive more evidence about ongoing and unexplained intermittent noise from an existing transformer station.
“This is a comprehensive package,” township solicitor Jeff Wilker said of the agreements approved by council. They were negotiated “long and hard” with Canadian Hydro, with input from town staff, engineers and consultants, he explained.
The agreements address issues such as road repair and drainage, development, construction, environmental management and emergency preparedness. Icing and turbine-related noise complaint protocols were also endorsed.
Canadian Hydro is seeking approval to erect 22 turbines in Amaranth as part of the Melancthon II Wind Project. The OMB has already approved the construction of 66 turbines in Melancthon Township as part of the same initiative.
Council members offered no explanation of their decision to approve the agreements, despite requests from several residents to delay the matter.
“We believe it is premature for any documentation to be signed…. Perhaps these documents should be part of the OMB hearing when it resumes,” suggested John Lever, who has opposed the project because of, among other reasons, health concerns.
Residents also challenged council on its previous decision to support Canadian Hydro’s proposal. Amaranth agreed to back the project in September, following an OMB-ordered mediation process.
As a result of the mediation council approved site plan control bylaws for the turbines and the developer withdrew 20 appeals to the board.
“You guys bailed out of the OMB and left us,” commented Paul Thompson, who lives near the existing transformer station and has been vocal in his opposition to plans for a second transformer at that location. “You’re supposed to protect us.”
“We have done a considerable amount of work dealing with the noise issue,” Mayor Don MacIver retorted later in the meeting, when prompted by a similar accusation from another resident. The municipality, he said, has spent “hundreds of thousands of dollars” on noise experts and legal costs in an effort to resolve the problem. “It’s still an open issue at the OMB.”
Despite the installation of a sound barrier wall, residents continue to hear an intermittent “hum”, which the acoustical expert and developer have been unable to explain.
The OMB hearing, which initially closed on Oct.18, is scheduled to resume Wednesday.
Matters other than noise from the transformer will not be readdressed during the continuation.
In his Nov. 16 decision, Jackson found that concerns over proximity of turbines to aerodromes (small air strips) have been dealt with and various financial matters between the township and developer have been “carefully analyzed.”
“The board also finds other concerns with wind farms raised generally not to be in accordance with the current provincial policy statement and the current Amaranth official plan,” he wrote.
By Richard Vivian
25 February 2008
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