Tempers flared at Huron East’s March 8 meeting of council when the topic of wind turbines was raised.
Members of Huron East Against Turbines (HEAT) requested time to discuss the topic with council after being shut down at an earlier meeting because they hadn’t been put on the agenda.
Members of HEAT were asking for an update on where several initiatives were sitting and they wanted to know what work the councillors were putting into the issue.
Founding member of HEAT Rob Tetu thanked council for appointing him as the citizen representative for Huron East on the Inter-Municipal Turbine Working Group and said that he would be appearing monthly (after every meeting of the group) to update council on the happenings of the group. He said that while he could provide the members of council with a copy of the meeting’s minutes, he felt that would not be helpful, as the minutes were very undetailed.
He informed councillors that his monthly presentations would be brief.
He also made an offer to any councillors who wished to attend a meeting of the group that he could drive them to the meeting.
Jack McLachlan, Huron East clerk-administrator was questioned as to whether the municipality had received a response from the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) to the letter sent months ago regarding wind turbines and their effect on assessment.
McLachlan said that he hadn’t and Brussels Councillor Joe Seili said that the municipality has been waiting on updated assessment data for Huron East for years, so he wasn’t expecting a speedy response to the letter.
Co-founder of HEAT Gerry Ryan was concerned with a printed advertisement by CASA Engineering and Construction regarding the St. Columban Wind Project. He said he found the ad to be misleading and found the print to be too small for many residents to read.
Ryan cited some wording on the advertisement saying that the developer would not have to acknowledge a receptor (a home) in the setback area after the date the map was printed, which was at the beginning of March.
Ryan said this move would be limiting to construction in the area, as no more homes could be built within a 550-metre radius of any of the proposed wind turbines.
“This move means they can now dictate where you can put your home,” Ryan said.
Ryan said that since Huron East had officially enacted its cost recovery bylaw, the wording of the bylaw states that it should have taken effect as soon as CASA published its plans in local newspapers and on its website. One of the conditions of the bylaw, Ryan said, would be that the developer would have to meet with council to discuss the project and eventually enter into an agreement with the municipality.
Councillor Bill Siemon said that McLachlan should get in touch with the municipality’s solicitor Greg Stewart to ask him about the procedure going forward.
Ryan, however, was then taken aback when a meeting with Jose Menendez of CASA was mentioned. Ryan said that it was his understanding that when more than two councillors meet, it’s an official meeting of council that has to be disclosed. Councillors, however, were quick defend themselves, saying that despite Ryan’s claims, the councillors had done nothing wrong by taking a requested meeting.
Menendez had met with councillors Seili, Siemon, Andy Flowers and Deputy-Mayor Joe Steffler and Ryan was outraged that HEAT hadn’t been informed and received an invitation to sit in on that meeting.
Ryan asked if he could receive a copy of the committee’s meeting minutes, which McLachlan said he could.
Still caught off guard, however, Ryan returned to the topic of not being invited to the meeting, a position Seili was quick to defend.
“We gave HEAT a chance to speak at this council meeting. Did we have to inform the wind energy companies?” Seili asked.
Seili said that if Menendez asked to speak to councillors, they certainly weren’t going to turn him away.
Ryan then took exception to Seili’s tone and told him that he wouldn’t “bully” him and the other members of HEAT. Seili responded by saying that he felt bullied by HEAT and that council followed every procedure correctly.
Seili also stated that he felt Ryan was calling him a liar and didn’t like his implication that he or any other member of the committee were “up to anything” that they shouldn’t be.
“We know you’re frustrated with us, but we won’t quit,” Ryan said. “We’re determined.”
Councillor Alvin McLellan, who was chairing the meeting in the absence of Mayor Bernie MacLellan, who had to withdraw from discussion due to a conflict of interest, as well as Steffler, who was unable to attend the meeting, reminded Ryan that council has also experienced significant frustration over this issue and that council and HEAT were on the same team.
“We’re frustrated too, not at [HEAT], but at the process,” McLellan said. “You have to trust us that we’re trying to do the best we can, but we’re trying to balance everything.
“We’re trying to do the best we can on this issue without breaking the bank. We’re trying the best we can, but we’re trying to not make any mistakes going forward. This is all new to us.”
Members of HEAT also inquired as to whether council was planning on taking any action on the newly-enacted turbine bylaw out of Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh Council, but McLachlan said it had been decided by Stewart that there would have to be significant changes to the policy before Huron East would consider supporting, let alone, enacting it.
Council also received an update from McLachlan on the costs that have been dedicated to date relating to wind turbines, including the drafting of Huron East’s cost recovery bylaw. Council has spend just under $11,000 on the issue, spending $2,998.50 in 2009 and $7,936.55 in 2010.
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