Several area councils now have plenty to think about, and a month to act, after Huron East’s Nov. 9 meeting concerning a Low Frequency Noise (LFN) bylaw.
Representatives from nearly 10 municipalities and townships were in attendance at the special meeting of the councils in Seaforth, which had to be moved to the Seaforth Community Complex from Huron East Town Hall because the hall couldn’t accommodate everyone.
Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh, Bluewater, Central Huron, Norwich, South Huron, West Perth, Wellington County, Saugeen Shores, Huron-Kinloss and Arran-Elderslie were all represented at the meeting. Initially only five municipalities were expected by the meeting’s organizers.
Huron East Council organized the meeting, putting word out to surrounding municipalities over a month in advance to discuss a potential LFN bylaw. In addition to the aforementioned representatives and the majority of Huron East Council, the municipality’s solicitor was there to discuss how a LFN bylaw would have to be drawn up and tested against a court’s scrutiny.
One of the most important points, solicitor Greg Stewart said, was the aspect of “good faith”, in that the bylaw would have to be drafted in good faith, otherwise a court could strike it down.
Because the provincial government has overtaken the planning aspects of anything related to renewable energy with its Green Energy Act, Stewart explained that no bylaw could be drafted that would attempt to circumvent that legislation.
He said that the Municipal Act still allows municipalities to govern over certain things, and one of them is sound. So if the bylaw is passed in order to govern LFN, that is acceptable, but if the bylaw is passed to restrict the construction of industrial-sized wind turbines by “going through the back door” the bylaw would be deemed to have been drafted and passed in bad faith and would be struck down.
This was an issue that was debated at length, as several members of the anti-turbine groups Central Huron Against Turbines (CHAT) and Huron East Against Turbines (HEAT), as well as several councillors, pointed out, the reason the meeting was called, was wind turbines.
Several members of the gallery stated that it was no secret that the meeting was called because of concerns over alleged adverse health effects from wind turbines.
“It’s a wind turbine meeting,” Huron East McKillop Ward Councillor Andrew Flowers said. “To me, we just opened up a challenge right there.”
A councillor from Norwich, an area currently facing two small wind turbine developments, agreed, saying that it may be tough to hide that the concern of those in attendance was wind turbines.
“In reality, wind turbines are the problem,” she said. “We’re all aware of that.”
This was one of Stewart’s greatest concerns, he said, in that the wording of the bylaw, should it be drafted, should not include anything about wind turbines specifically. It should govern LFN in all its incarnations throughout the area. There were, however, other steps that would need to be taken as well, including several studies that would show that LFN poses a problem to the general population.
Stewart said that it certainly is a grey area, but that if a bylaw is enacted to regulate nuisance noise and vibration, that wasn’t a problem before wind turbines were erected in the area, then it is still a valid concern, but admitted that it can be difficult to prove.
“It’s under your jurisdiction to pass a bylaw to restrict nuisance noise and vibration, so if it’s not a nuisance before something comes in…” he said. “It’s grey and that’s where it gets slippery, but the Municipal Act says you still control these things.”
Stewart likened it to a law against driving while drinking ginger ale. He said that while a law against driving while drinking alcohol has been backed up by studies that alcohol impairs one’s ability to operate a motor vehicle, similar research has not been conducted into the effects of ginger ale on a driver, for example. He said the only thing a court could deduce from such a restriction was that the writers of the bylaw had a problem with ginger ale and were trying to restrict it. The same could be said for a LFN bylaw, if the bylaw suggests the restriction of LFN, it would have to back up the claims of adverse health effects with research proving these effects.
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