Provincial wind turbine setbacks should be the same on land as they are offshore.
That’s the message East Garafraxa council delivered in a recent letter to Premier Dalton McGuinty, following comments from Minister of the Environment Brad Duguid, that offshore turbines should be at least five kilometres from the shoreline.
The Green Energy Act (GEA), which came into force last year, requires turbines to be set back a minimum of 550 metres the nearest point of reception.
“That’s the kind of stuff that’s just driving us crazy,” Mayor Allen Taylor said of the differential, noting he prefers the further distance.
“It’s just another attempt to try to let the folks in Queen’s Park know we’re not happy with the way things are,” he added of the letter to McGuinty and council’s ongoing efforts to have municipal planning authority taken away by the GEA reinstated. “We seem to be getting nowhere.”
In the letter, council urges Duguid to consider more than “people who were concerned that if they go to the beach, they could be looking up at a huge wind turbine” – a direct reference to the minister’s comments.
Also renewing the township’s call for a thorough study on the effect of industrial wind turbines on human health, the letter cites complaints of dizziness, sleep disturbance, headaches and more from people living near existing turbines.
Taylor further raised the inequality of setbacks at last week’s Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference in Windsor, during a session with various provincial ministers.
“Please tell me why whenever you’re dealing with offshore (turbines) down near metropolitan Toronto, you’re saying five kilometres offshore for these wind towers, but when you come to my backyard up in Dufferin County, it’s 550 metres. Explain to me why that’s fair,” Taylor recalls asking. “Of course they couldn’t do it, because it isn’t.”
Despite its concerns with wind–power projects, East Garafraxa council won’t be heading to court alongside a municipality facing a potential legal battle with a turbine developer.
Officials with the Municipality of Aaron-Eldeslie recently circulated a resolution seeking support to defend a bylaw intended to stall the installation of turbines there.
“Eldeslie is going to get snowed by the developer,” Taylor predicts. “The developer has more money to fight them in court than that municipality has, or any of the people put together with them.
“East Garafraxa doesn’t want to get caught in the financial backdraft of whatever’s going on up there,” he adds. “If this thing does make the Supreme Court, the expenses are going to be horrendous.”
In fact, Aaron-Eldeslie has not received the support of any municipality in Dufferin. All councils have either simply received the request without taking action, or were not circulated with the appeal for assistance.
According to Melancthon Coun. Janice Elliott, her township is still considering whether to get involved. Along with Deputy Mayor Bill Hill, she sits on a new inter-municipal committee, headed by Aaron-Eldeslie, which aims to address wind turbine concerns.
“It gives municipalities a chance to work together,” she said of the committee, which includes representatives from eight municipalities. “The Green Energy Act has taken away the municipalities’ involvement in wind turbine development and I think we’re all feeling we should have some sort of a say in what’s going on in our municipalities.”
Wind power projects are proposed for East Garafraxa and Melancthon, the latter of which is already home to numerous industrial turbines. Under the GEA, planning issues related to those proposals rest entirely with the province.
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