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Turbine plan stirs the winds of debate  

A storm is stirring when it comes to Toyota dealer Bob Jackson’s proposal to erect a wind turbine on his south-end Barrie dealership.

At a public meeting required under the Planning Act, planning consultant Rick Jones outlined Jackson’s plan to erect a state-of-the-art, 123.5-metre wind turbine on the rear portion of the four-acre Mapleview Drive West dealership.

Barrie’s bylaws allow a wind turbine in the industrial area, but limit accessory structures – buildings a business uses that are not central to its business – to a height of 14 metres.

“Its location is probably ideal. It’s not close to any homes,” said Jones. “Within an urban area, the location of this is considerably good.”

The turbine would provide enough clean energy to power 500 homes, and it would be a landmark, establishing Barrie as an environmental example.

“Issues relating to noise, shadows and ice can be avoided through proper planning. Wind is clean, renewable and an abundant source of power,” he said.

Neighbours, however, expressed an array of concerns – including chunks of ice flying and hitting not only traffic on Mapleview and Highway 400, but the $8 million in new vehicle inventory in nearby Nissan and Hyundai dealerships.

“The turbine’s wings are as long as a 757 (jet) and the sweep is three hockey rinks in size. Adjacent land uses, in spite of the reports that would leave us to believe are industrial and non-sensitive uses, are commercial uses, six days a week, that attract over 30,000 customers per year and have a vehicle inventory, combined, of over $8 million,” said planner Gord Knox, retained by the Hyundai and Nissan dealerships.

“Noise is invasive and distracting. For example, the tips of the blades turn at speeds of up to 170 km/h; think of that in comparison to a car on Highway 400.”

Knox said turbines are usually located in rural areas for good reason. “Pieces of ice could land and at a speed of twice as fast as a Bobby Hull slapshot.”

Other neighbours echoed those concerns. For a numbered company represented by lawyer Paul Wessenger, the concerns focused on setback, visual impact and ice.

“This is a significant visual intrusion in the landscape. There is the question of noise, the question of ice damage to persons and vehicles. This type of turbine requires a much larger site,” he said.

“The issue is not whether we support wind turbines or whether (energy from wind) is a good idea. The issue is, is this an appropriate site?”

Barry Green, a member of the Barrie Windcatchers, told city council it is indeed a good site. A June 2006 study concluded the Mapleview Drive area as a prime location, because of wind patterns.

Barrie Windcatchers is a group of local citizens determined to have a wind turbine built at the city’s landfill site and in other areas of Barrie.

“A lot of concerns are based on misinformation, but there are a couple of legitimate concerns. I imagine ice throw is the No. 1 issue,” he said, adding the city could ask Toronto about the impact of ice on the CNE turbine.

“I hope council has the courage to look at it carefully and approve it,” he said.

Local Green Party candidate Erich Jacoby-Hawkins argued noise isn’t an issue, especially as the location is an industrial area, and traffic on the six-lane Mapleview Drive would generate enough noise to dampen the sound of the turbine.

As for liability, he said insurance companies are experts at determining liability and the city should not be focused on that, but more focused on the opportunity to create clean energy and be an environmental leader.

“All of us have a responsibility to be part of a cleaner, greener future,” he said, adding Barrie consumers’ demand requires 220,000 tonnes of coal to be burned each year.

He added beauty is in the eye of the beholder. “When I pass by the CNE windmill, I smile. It makes me feel happy. Nature created this energy for us.

“By the time I’ve passed Shelburne (and the wind farm there) I’m positively giddy. In Barrie, we have our own metal monstrosity (the Spirit Catcher).”

And for environmentalist Peter Bursztyn, wind turbines have proven to be effective and safe in Europe. “There are tens of thousands of these in the world. They’re so successful, they keep building more,” he said.

“Ice throw is not usually an issue. If ice builds up, they will vibrate and shut down immediately and de-ice themselves.

“I can’t say as to how ugly they are. They’re not ugly to me, compared to hundreds of acres of asphalt. The paragon of ugliness is a big-box store.”

Laurie Watt

Barrie Advance

22 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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