Chatham-Kent council approved all four applications from Gengrowth LP1 to erect five wind turbines on each of four properties in Chatham-Kent at their April 14 planning meeting.
The turbines will be built on Marsh Line in Dover, Swanton Line in Tilbury East, Front Line in Howard and Bisnett Line in Harwich.
A decision on the wind farm had been deferred from two previous meetings to allow all concerned residents an opportunity to address council.
However, Coun. Don Clarke said, “at the end of the day, this is something we need to support,” and he noted that the economic benefit to the municipality of the Gengrowth project is at least equivalent to “a very large factory” in terms of assessment.
He also said council owes it to future generations to do something to help reduce the amount of coal-fired generation in Ontario.
Coun. Bryon Fluker said he was “really concerned about the cumulative effect here,” and suggested council take a break from approving more wind farms until the impact of the Kruger and Gengrowth projects can be determined.
Coun. Bill Weaver said, “all parties involved deserve our decision tonight,” and pointed out “there will be next actions.”
However, some members of council were reluctant to make a decision with very little time left after other business and several presentations related to the Gengrowth application earlier in the evening.
At one point Mayor Randy Hope initiated a two-minute time limit for councillors to ask questions.
Coun. Anne Gilbert said that although she realized council had little option but to approve the recommendations, “if we’d done our homework… we wouldn’t be in this position of being backed into a wall by our own policy.”
She said at the time the municipality agreed to include wind farms in its official plan, nobody anticipated “the wholesale intrusion,” that would occur as a result.
Coun. Doug Sulman said council should not be making such an important decision before a full discussion on the matter.
“I don’t think we should be doing it this rapidly,” he said. “I don’t think we should be forced to hear buzzers going on at two-minute intervals.”
Sulman said he was particularly concerned about the application on Bisnett Line in Harwich which will see wind turbines as close as 1.3 km to the Lake Erie shoreline.
“We should have drawn the line in the proverbial sand right now and said at least four kilometres from shores,” he said.
Coun. Sheldon Parsons said, “I don’t think we’re being fair to this council shortening (the discussion) up.”
Earlier in the evening, Tom Chatterton, president of the Sydenham Field Naturalists, had asked council to establish setbacks of five kilometres from Lake St. Clair and three kilometres from Lake Erie.
“Many municipalities in Ontario would be envious of the potential Chatham-Kent has in terms of shorelines,” he said, adding that local areas have been recognized nationally, provincially and globally, with internationally designated Important Bird Areas existing near both lakes.
However council also heard from ornithologist Dr. Ross James that wind turbines near Port Burwell have been shown to have little, if any impact on bird migrations or mortality there.
James, who had been retained by Gengrowth, said far greater threats to the bird population are posed by motor vehicles and hunters than wind turbines.
Council also heard from Brent DeNure of the Chatham-Kent Chamber of Commerce,
who spoke in favour of the wind project as a welcome business investment.
Kim Iles was the final speaker and discussed potential health impacts of the wind farms.
Hope reminded council prior to making a decision that it wasn’t council’s job to deal with the merits of wind energy, but to tackle the four applications at hand.
And, he said that decisions made in regard to the Gengrowth project would be specific to that project.
“This isn’t a blank cheque given across Chatham-Kent,” he said.
He also told lawyer Stephen D’Agostino, who was representing Gengrowth that, “your employer has a responsibility to this council, not only today, but beyond today.”
23 April 2008
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