Essex County council unanimously approved a set of planning amendments Wednesday for massive wind turbine projects despite complaints from homeowners that the new rules lack essential protections against noise and other effects.
“I don’t think any of them really know what they’ve done,” Bill Anderson of the Essex County Wind Action Group said after the decision.
Without a minimum standard for setbacks from homes and turbines, every project will be a battle, said Anderson.
“They’ve left themselves wide open to litigation on every project.”
The county is really leaving the determination of setbacks to studies done by wind project developers, Anderson said.
County planner Bill King said the developers’ studies have to meet noise guidelines of the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.
Different types and sizes of turbines will require different setbacks so the county shouldn’t set an arbitrary minimum, King recommended.
King said individual municipalities could also determine their own setback requirements, as some have already done.
Kingsville and Lakeshore have already agreed on 300-metre minimum setbacks between homes and turbines, while Amherstburg’s requires 600 metres.
Amherstburg’s Jeanette Jacobsen asked the county to consider a minimum setback of 1.5 kilometres between homes and turbines – a standard that has been adopted in other countries with longer experience of the noise impacts.
She brought in a scale model of a 120-metre high wind turbine along with a model of her home on Conc. 6 to show the size disparity. Her husband, Mick MacCorquodale, is vowing to appeal the new county amendments to the Ontario Municipal Board.
Leamington Deputy Mayor Rob Schmidt was disappointed the county wasn’t developing a minimum setback, which municipalities could increase.
“That (setbacks) is the single most contentious issue I see arising,” said Schmidt, pointing out that municipalities already have numerous planning regulations with setbacks required which aren’t based on scientific studies. However, even Schmidt concluded: “It’s time to move forward.”
He added: “We’re probably doing something right. We’re not making either side happy.”
Jacobsen asked the county to consider compensation for homeowners if property values decrease because of nearby wind turbine projects.
She’s been told to expect 20 to 50 per cent drops in home values after large turbines go up nearby.
“If you get this wrong, how will the county correct the damage?” she asked.
4 June 2008