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More questions than answers as council defers wind farm proposals  

There were more questions than answers blowing in the wind at an April 14 planning meeting.

A decision on four wind farm applications was deferred after a five-hour meeting last Tuesday failed to provide enough time for all scheduled speakers to have their say.

By the time the meeting came to its obligatory close, another six speakers had yet to be heard. They will have their opportunity to address Chatham-Kent council at the April 14 planning meeting. But no additional speakers will be heard.

Last week’s meeting was the second on the project, which is seeking official plan and zoning bylaw amendments to reduce the required setbacks for the projects.

If the applications are approved, minimum setbacks would be 250 metres for on-site residential dwellings and 300 metres for an off-site residence.

Those who agree to have a wind turbine on their land will be compensated $10,000 a year for 20 years. But there is no provision for compensation for off-site neighbours.

The first speaker last week was Monica Elmes, who reminded council of the municipal vision which sees Chatham-Kent “ensuring a high quality of life for all its people.”

Elmes stated that “peace and quiet is one of the high qualities we all enjoy,” and said, “poorly-sited wind turbines will negatively affect our quality of life.”

She raised the spectre of adverse health effects and said setbacks of as much as 2.4 kilometres have been recommended to avoid problems.

“Just because we cannot hear it does not mean it cannot have an effect on us,” she said.

Elmes also questioned the notification process used by the municipality in alerting residents who might be affected by the installation of the wind turbines.

Other speakers also addressed the possibility of health impacts, but a written statement from Chatham-Kent’s medical officer of health, Dr. David Colby stated that his research “did not turn up convincing evidence of harm from wind turbines,” and that “vibro-acoustic disease (VAD) has not been associated with wind turbines.”

Colby stated that “as long as the MOE guidelines for location criteria of wind farms are followed… there will be negligible adverse health impacts on Chatham-Kent residents.”

‘Threatening to overwhelm’

Earl Johnson told council “what started as a good idea has turned into something beyond what most of us imagined,” and, he added, “it’s threatening to overwhelm us as a community.”

Johnson added what was originally seen as an opportunity to develop cheap, green energy is now about “greed, politics and imposing someone else’s ideas of the future on us.”

He urged council to slow the process down and said there are issues that haven’t been fully explored, including the potential for tornado damage and lightning strikes to turbines. He also said no information has been provided on weed seed dispersal which could also be an issue in Chatham-Kent.

“We haven’t seen the completion of the Port Alma (Kruger) turbines,” he said. “We should be assessing that project for its viability before proceeding with this.”

David Langstaff said his farmland south of Talbot Trail is surrounded on three sides by land being rezoned for wind development, with a residence about 300 metres away.

“Since council is at the early stages of what appears to be an infestation of windmills, we should have a setback of about 450 metres,” he said. He also asked council to consider buffer zones for areas that are environmentally sensitive.

Langstaff also urged council to take the time to seek out independent information before making a decision.

Some residents, including the chairperson of Stewardship Kent, were concerned about the impact on migrating birds.

Rick Siddell said he’s particularly concerned about the large numbers of hawks in the Holiday Beach area.

He said by installing a five-kilometre buffer around the Lake St. Clair area and a three-kilometre buffer along the Lake Erie shoreline, the municipality “will be getting ourselves out of a lot of trouble before it starts,” and added, “there really is no corrective action once this starts up.”

Jim Desat pointed out that fact-finding trips by Chatham-Kent councillors found noise wasn’t an issue and said the majority of residents support the wind turbines.

He also had a warning for council members who might not support the project, saying a contrary decision, “could come back to bite you at election time.”

Stan Brein, who was among many in council chambers wearing a www.isupportwindfarms.com t-shirt, said he believes “the setbacks being proposed are quite reasonable.”

He added that, “landowners have the right to take advantage of resources that are there.”

Asked by Coun. Don Clarke if he would be getting a wind turbine on his property, Brein said yes, but declined to comment on how many, and said, “I’m in favour of wind turbines in general.”

The final speaker of the evening was Doug Desmond, a Ridgetown lawyer who spoke on behalf of a number of people.

He said the Storey Samways report, which recommends the zoning changes, “in my view demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what the process is when you make a planning decision.”

He said there appears to have been no consultation with the municipality’s heritage or economic development departments and said one of the priorities should be in maintaining agricultural land for agricultural use, not industrial use as is the case with wind turbines.

He also pointed out that other than the people who will financially benefit directly by having a turbine on their land, “there is no economic benefit to the citizens of Chatham-Kent as far as I can tell.”

He asked council to do a cost benefit analysis on the first phase of the Kruger project and find out how much money was spent locally, how many people were hired. He also asked what the tax revenues would be if all the proposed wind turbines were built.

And, he said, the people he’s representing “have everything to lose,” because of reduced property values and said it’s only “common sense,” to believe property values would decline with the presence of wind turbines.

Desmond also pointed to the municipality’s own cultural plan, which stresses Chatham-Kent’s natural features “are our means to our future development.

“Your mandate is to protect the interests of citizens of Chatham-Kent, not the world,” he said.

Karen Robinet

Chatham This Week

2 April 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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