ESSEX – Two topics took center stage at County Council during their meeting last Wednesday.
Among the items discussed were a motion to approve a set of planning amendments for wind turbine projects in the county and an update on the corrections with the Reverse 911 service.
The night opened with a presentation by Amherstburg’s Jeanette Jacobsen and Cathy Botek. They brought in a scale model of a wind turbine and a house, showing the difference in size. Jacobsen asked council to look at a 1.5 kilometer minimum setback between the turbines and roads, as that’s what has been used in other countries with more experience on this topic. She said she’s been told her property value could go down as much as 50 percent, thus wants council to look at compensation for homeowners if that happens. However, she sarcastically added some could benefit from the turbines.
“We believe tourists will come in droves to see people who live next to this carnival sideshow,” she said.
After some discussion amongst the councillors, Leamington Deputy Mayor Robert Schmidt said it was time to move forward and you won’t please everyone. Council unanimously approved the motion, moving forward with the plan amendments.
In a press release issued the next day by the Essex County Wind Action Group, they said they were “disappointed” by the quality of questions asked and accused some members of county councillors of not doing “no real investigation of this issue on their own.”
“Many Councilors relied on the industry lobby group, CanWEA for all their information. What county council didn’t realize last night is the fact that with no minimum setbacks in their regulations they have opened the door to litigation against the proponents and themselves on every single turbine installation. The cost of future OMB, and/or dispute resolution hearings and lawsuits will be borne by the taxpayers, and in all likelihood will amount to millions of dollars,” ECWAG states.
Soon after, issues with the Reverse 911 system were brought up. Recently, people were brought in to look at the issues and were aware of the frustration council members were feeling. They’ve worked on those issues and County Chief Administration Officer Brian J. Gregg said the system, with “20 dedicated lines”, is getting better.
“The system works more efficiently than it did a week ago,” he said.
However, it’s not done yet. There is still a fair amount of internal data that needs to be cleaned up.
Amherstburg Mayor Wayne Hurst said they need to get it fixed “as quickly as possible” so an emergency run could happen.
Not everyone was convinced a successful test will be the end of it, though. Lakeshore Mayor Tom Bain expressed concern and it was echoed by Tecumseh Deputy Mayor Tom Burton.
Council will come back on June 18 with an action plan to decide where to go from here. Gregg said they’d benefit in the long run if everyone works together and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data.
“Short term, there’s a lot of work,” he said. “Long term, though, we’ll all benefit.”
By Dave Jewell
12 June 2008
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