Huron County Council has taken a definitive step in its stance on wind turbine developments, saying that it would support a moratorium being placed on further developments by the Provincial Government.
The issue was raised once again at the June 1 meeting of Huron County Council due to a presentation by Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh resident Anita Frayne, who asked that council impose a moratorium. There was initially some support for the notion, but Treasurer David Carey (operating as CAO in the absence of CAO Larry Adams) said a motion reading that council would impose a moratorium would indicate that council has the authority to do so, which it does not. As a result, it was changed to reflect that council would support a moratorium until further studies have been conducted to study potential adverse health effects related to wind turbines. No specific number of studies, or what council hoped the studies would reveal were detailed in the motion.
Councillor Deb Shewfelt was opposed to the motion, feeling that it oversteps council’s boundaries, infringing on the jurisdiction of the province. He, however, came under fire, with other councillors stating that Shewfelt wouldn’t be able to see both sides of the story, as no wind turbines are proposed to be in Goderich. He, however, felt he was one of the few who was seeing both sides of the story.
“There are two sides to every story and we have no authority,” Shewfelt said. “Certain people seem to keep bringing this back and bringing this back.”
Shewfelt then proposed a motion to table the issue, feeling that there wasn’t enough information for councillors to make an informed decision, despite his stated opposition to the motion. Shewfelt’s motion to table was defeated and discussion continued.
Councillor Brian Barnim agreed with Shewfelt that council didn’t necessarily have the authority to impose a moratorium, but he said he felt it was important to have council’s opposition on record.
“I don’t see the harm in going on record as a county,” Barnim said. “We don’t have the jurisdiction, we don’t have the power, but we can go on record as saying that we support further research.”
Councillor Paul Klopp agreed, saying that further studies were needed so that the air could be cleared and the public would know about wind turbines once and for all.
“Let’s get these studies done and find out one way or the other,” he said. “It’s the farmers who will be taking the hit if there’s going to be a hit to take.”
Councillor Art Versteeg agreed with Shewfelt, saying the Green Energy Act has been put in place and there’s nothing municipal governments can do.
“We’re well aware of our jurisdiction,” Versteeg said. “I think this motion goes too far.”
Versteeg also added that he would be voting against the motion in part due to how vague it is. He said that by saying simply “until more health studies are done” shows no definitive end. “How many studies will there be?” he asked, adding that what exactly people are looking for from the studies has also yet to be clarified.
Central Huron’s Dave Jewitt said he was comfortable with the formation of the committee to investigate low frequency noise and that any further action would be reaching too far.
“I think we’re getting close to overstepping our boundaries. A moratorium goes beyond setting up a low frequency noise committee,” he said. “I believe we created a group to look at the issues and I’m comfortable with that.”
Further to his original point, Shewfelt said if council was prepared to pass this motion, that the $50,000 placed in the budget for the low frequency noise committee should then be removed, a sentiment that received support from several councillors, although an official direction concerning the committee was not taken. In fact, a presentation from the committee will be forthcoming at one of this month’s committee of the whole meetings.
It was head of the Huron County Planning Department Scott Tousaw who urged council not to shut down the committee. He said the committee has met only twice, but that a report is forthcoming from the Provincial Government concerning wind turbines and low frequency noise. The committee will be preparing a report based on the province’s report.
“Right now we’re gearing up to make comments to [council] so we can make meaningful comments to the province,” Tousaw said. “I think there’s a place for that.”
The motion was passed with four councillors, Jim Ginn, Bernie MacLellan, Ben Van Diepenbeek and Neil Rintoul declaring conflicts of interest.
It was also agreed that a letter should be sent to the Provincial Government and the Ministry of the Environment.
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