Her council seat isn’t warm yet but a Burlington rookie councillor-elect is in a major flap over a retail giant’s planned wind turbine.
Marianne Meed Ward, who will be sworn in Dec. 1 as Burlington’s Ward 2 councillor, is blasting Walmart Canada’s pitch for an eight-storey, energy-producing turbine as nothing but a bunch of hot air.
She said the company is really seeking a 24-metre-high advertisement under the guise of an energy-producing turbine. And she is worried the turbine could create health and safety woes for the area.
Walmart announced in September plans to build the 24-metre turbine adjacent to its Fairview Street super store just east of Brant Street. It has made an application for approval for the project as part of the province’s Green Energy Act.
A company report reveals all electricity generated by the wind turbine will be connected to a distribution panel within each Walmart store and used on the premises for some of the store’s energy requirements.
Walmart spokesperson Susan Schutta said the company is proceeding with its turbine plans.
“We have no update at this time,” she said in an e-mailed statement. “We have not completed the consultation process for the permit to build a windmill at the Burlington Walmart.”
But Meed Ward, who started an online petition to oppose the turbine during the municipal election campaign that has gathered more than 200 names, isn’t buying the Walmart spin.
She said the company wants to build the huge turbine in a low-wind area, stick logos on the blades and use the structure as giant advertisement.
“People are concerned about the health issues,” she said, adding the constant hum and sound waves generated by turbines have been known to cause nausea and headaches for those living nearby.
“And when the turbine ices up, they have been know to throw ice,” she added, which could be a safety concern.
There are also concerns about the esthetics of having such a large turbine located close to a residential area, she said.
“They would never be able to build an 80-foot-high sign that could be seen from the CN Tower. So here is the way to use the Green Energy Act for a purpose it was never intended to be used for: bypass all the local planning officials and essentially build an 80-foot sign.”
But Schutta denied that this is just an advertising ploy.
“Walmart Canada is a recognized leader in sustainable business practices, and recently opened one of the world’s most sustainable distribution centres, located in Balzac, Alta.,” she said in the e-mail. “One of the company’s goals is to be supplied 100 per cent by renewable energy. To meet this goal, we are committed to pilot the use of renewable energy in our operations. We are therefore preparing to pilot wind power as well as solar power.”
Meed Ward is working with Burlington MPP Joyce Savoline in a bid to convince the province to reject the proposal. Savoline could not be reached yesterday.
Burlington planning director Bruce Krushelnicki has advised Meed Ward that the province’s Green Energy Act exempts wind turbines from municipal planning approvals. It does not require zoning, official plan or site plan approval.
Meed Ward is undaunted. She said she hopes to funnel enough local opposition to convince the retail giant to back down.
She said she’s not opposed to green energy, but the Brant-Fairview area is a poor place for a turbine.
“You’ll hear NIMBY, you’ll hear anti-green. It has nothing to do with that,” she said. “Just because a project says it is green doesn’t mean it is green.”
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