It’s unlikely a commercial-sized wind farm will be churning in Caledon after council decided to support the requests of several citizens at a council meeting July 8.
Town council approved a minimum set-back for windmills from residential dwellings of 500 metres, lower than the 800 metres petitioners were asking for, but higher than Ministry of the Environment (MOE) standards.
Residents raised concerns about a proposal for a commercial wind farm on the Limbeer Farm at Willoughby and Beechgrove Roads in Alton.
“We are not against renewable energy or industrial wind turbines,” said Andy May, an affected resident, at the council meeting. “There are health and safety concerns when wind turbines are placed to close to … where people frequent.”
Funds from the Town that were slated to go towards a Wind Feasibility Study, which is now no longer necessary, are being siphoned into other Caledon ‘green’ initiatives. The Community Green Fund will receive $15,000 and the remaining $35,000 will be put towards municipal energy-efficient or renewable-energy projects.
Windy Hills Caledon’s Jim Fonger spoke to council in defence of the commercial wind project, asking that the $50,000 wind feasibility study still be carried out before any final decisions were made. He said that a financial commitment had been made by councillors and that to withdraw now would be a sign of “negotiating in bad faith”.
“Council is in no position, legal or otherwise, to withdraw commitment at this time,” Fonger said, though the Town’s legal staff disagreed, saying that no contract had been signed and no firm commitment to provide the money made.
While petitioners requested an 800-metre setback, the new minimum 500-metre guideline still makes the existence of a commercial scale wind project, defined by staff as a wind facility which intends to generate electricity for commercial purposes rather than on-site consumption, in a Town as densely-populated as Caledon unlikely, and resident May is calling it a “victory for the small guy”.
Town staff looked at the actions of four other municipalities that have recently dealt with the issue of wind farm setbacks, and the consequences of their decisions. It was found setback distances seemed to grow as projects progressed, and in the end council adopted a setback that is 50 metres farther than any of the municipalities cited in the staff report.
Little is known about the long-term effects on people of living near wind turbines, but some scientists have noted a condition being called ‘Wind Turbine Syndrome’ in which residents experience physical ailments such as dizziness, nausea and sleep problems in connection to living in close proximity to a turbine.
Councillors expressed a desire to see more ‘green’ projects in Caledon, suggesting that while wind farms may not be a proper fit, other options are available for investigation, such as solar projects.
“We are using the money very wisely in terms of supporting new community projects,” said Councillor Doug Beffort.
By Heather Abrey
18 July 2008
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