Saugeen Shores town council has adopted a wind turbine policy that is essentially a moratorium on turbine development in the municipality, according to engineers with Leader Resources Services Corp.
Eric Monrad, a civil engineer with the company gave a deputation to committee-of-the-whole last Monday in advance of the vote on the policy during the regular council meeting later in the evening.
“Most of the items, as we went through the policy, we have no issues with,” he told council. He added these items are both fine and reasonable, in the eyes of the developer, and are in line with provincial policy, such as the Environmental Protection Act and The Green Energy Act.
The main issue with the policy is the 1,000 metre setback from receptors for large turbines. Monrad explained this would rule out every property in municipality which is 1,000 metres deep, essentially prohibiting future turbine development.
This is partially because of how properties in Bruce County were first laid out more than a century and a half ago. The 100 acre plots were laid out in parcels of 400 by 1,000 metres. Except in certain cases, such as where a river runs through it, every property in the municipality is based on a lot size of 400 by 1,000.
“We took a look at the structure of the properties,” Monrad said. “If you have 1,000 metre deep property and a 1,000 metre setback, it immediately rules that property out.”
With these setbacks, Monrad said, there is not an acceptable property left in the municipality.
Deputy mayor Luke Charbonneau defended the setbacks immediately following the deputation. He said part of the problem with how Leader views the policy is based on a gap between the two parties, the developer and the town.
“You’re looking at development in terms of where you can put turbines, you want to build as many as you can, wherever you can,” Charbonneau said. “And where you’re looking at the policy in terms of protecting human health.”
Charbonneau say the town has yet to see any evidence that supports a 550 metre setback has being sufficient to reduce the impacts to human health caused by wind tur-bines. It is reasonable to believe, Charbonneau added, that a 1,000 metre setback could curtail the threat to human health.
Monrad assured Charbonneau Leader is not looking to put up as many turbines as possible. He reiterated the company is working with landowners in the area based on landowner interest for placing turbines on their properties.
Following the meeting, vice-deputy mayor Doug Gowanlock went into a little greater detail about what the town did to develop this policy. He had also spoken in the meeting about how difficult it was to get concensus as to how far away turbines should be from humans. The one thing he found was that the setbacks never get smaller.
“Around the world, the setbacks are all over the map,” he said. “As they review the setbacks, every time, without exception, they increased rather than decreased.”
Gowanlock also defused any notion that perhaps the municipality chose the 1,000 metre setback because it knew such a number would create a moratorium on turbine development in within the town limits.
“That 1,000 metre suggestion came from Dr. Hazel Lynn, (Grey-Bruce) medical officer of health,” Gowanlock revealed. “That is the minimum distance she says will be safe.”
Charbonneau added to Gowanlock’s comments and elaborated on his own before council met and voted on the policy.
“We’re trying to develop a setback that takes into account human health,” Charbonneau said. “The 550 metre setback, at least in my own opinion, is not based on much.”
Charbonneau also gave a little more information as to how the policy was developed. Town staff relied on scientific people from the local area to come up with the conclusions which make up the policy.
“There (were) two things staff was drawing on,” Charbonneau said. “One was what we did in 2006, when we developed our first policy that was added to the Official Plan at the time and then removed. Then, this conversation we had with the medical officer of health.” Local interests from area, including community members, land owners and developers did not receive consultation about this policy.
After the council meeting, where the policy was passed unanimously, Leader’s communications manager Heather Boa spoke to reporters. She was flanked with approximately a half-dozen people, including Saugeen Shores resident and Kincardine farmer Les Kempers, who has been a vocal supporter of turbine development.
The policy, Boa said, will not change Leader’s desire to do business in Saugeen Shores.
“We are committed to continuing to work with the municipality to develop our wind project,” she said. “We think that properly sited turbines can be developed here,” working under the Ministry of the Environment’s 550 metre setbacks.
When asked if Leader would ignore the 1,000 metre setback set out by the town, because The Green Energy Act’s guidelines overrule municipal statutes, Boa was diplomatic.
“We continue to try to work with the municipality,” she said. “We’ll try to keep dialogue going between us.”