PETAWAWA -Ontario’s Green Energy Act will prevent the town from restricting the number and location of wind turbines and solar panels within the municipality.
That is the conclusion Mayor Bob Sweet has reached after making further inquiries on the powers of municipal councils in regard to the controversial legislation.
During the planning committee this week, Councillor Treena Lemay asked if the town can maintain property standards with the introduction of wind turbines and solar-panel generators, either by companies or private individuals who want to generate power for money.
“The erection of them on our town properties will have some impacts on what our town will look like,” said Coun. Lemay.
She asked council to consider a moratorium on such devices until the new official plan has been drafted and passed.
While she doesn’t preclude rural property owners from erecting them, Coun. Lemay fears seeing subdivisions blanketed with solar panels.
“It would be tragic to have these ugly devices on residential lots,” she said. “Because it’s so new we have no legislation covering it and we don’t know what the provincial government will say.”
Ho w e v e r , Mayor Sweet said such a ban would be overturned by the province.
At a recent meeting of the Eastern Ontario Wardens Caucus in Kingston, the mayor broached the topic with an advisor from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. He was warned that the province would not allow municipalities to restrict renewable energy through their official plans.
Petawawa council believes it is already seeing its planning authority undermined by the Green Energy Act in regards to plans to build two power generat ing stat ions on the Petawawa River.
Xeneca Power Development is proposing a station at the Big Eddy rapids situated just west of the Canadian Pacific Railway bridge with the potential to generate up to five megawatts.
The second station is slated for Half Mile Rapids in the vicinity of Mountbatten Bridge at CFB Petawawa with the possibility of creating 3.3 megawatts.
The province plans to replace coal fire generating plants with renewable energy producers by 2014. The Petawawa River stations are scheduled to begin operating in 2015.
Deputy Mayor Tom Mohns, one of the staunchest critics of the project, said it’s time municipalities stood up to the provincial government.
He also hinted that perhaps a new government would give some power back to the municipalities.
“It’s time we blew a gasket,” said Deputy Mayor Mohns. “It’s completely out of control and we sit here and take it.
“We’ve had enough of this. There’s an election coming but it may not come quickly enough.”
Noting that the Green Energy Act is a cornerstone of Premier Dalton McGuinty’s renewal energy legacy, Mayor Sweet explained that 400 municipalities have registered their objections to the act through letters and demonstrations.
Those objections have fallen on deaf ears, he added.
As an example, he pointed to Wolfe Island near Kingston. The province al lowed 167 windmills to be erected although 93 per cent of the population was against the development.
“I hear the frustration that is out there,” said Mayor Sweet. “We can send letters but they won’t get anywhere near Dalton McGuinty.”
Councillor James Carmody, who raised the spectre of the generating stations earlier with the Black Bay Ratepayers’ Association, said this is a matter of rural Ontario paying for the comforts of urban Ontario.
“Rural Ontario is being asked to solve the problems of urban Ontario,” said Coun. Carmody. “We have to have some input in this process.”
Sean Chase is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist
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