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Wind farm caution urged

A newly formed taxpayer group is urging caution in developing a policy governing wind farm development in Annapolis County.

There are serious deficiencies in the county’s draft wind turbine bylaw that could adversely affect the county’s finances and taxpayers, says Steve Lewis, spokesman for the Friends for Responsibility for the Economy and Energy.

“This issue is very important. . . . It could impact us financially,” he said in an interview Tuesday.

“The major obligation of councillors is to protect their citizens. So we’re just saying slow down, it’s too important to push this through.”

The county has been working on a wind turbine bylaw for more than a year and recently approved a draft bylaw as companies seek to develop wind farms in the region, including a large one on North Mountain, near Bridgetown.

The new group is not against wind farm development, said Lewis.

“We just want to work with council through research that we do . . . so they can make better choices.”

He said municipalities around the province are struggling with the issue because the Nova Scotia government has not set any firm guidelines and councils don’t have sufficient expertise.

“The province has the money and the experts; they should have given guidance to all of the municipalities so they can make better decisions on this issue.

“We have some very serious concerns, but they all focus on protection for the taxpayers of Annapolis County. We’re not picking on any particular developer or project.”

A developer can come to the municipality for a wind farm and not put down any financial security bond, Lewis said.

In 15 to 20 years, the average lifespan of a turbine, he said, the county’s taxpayers could get stuck with the bill for its decommissioning.

Lewis said it could cost $100,000 to remove a turbine.

“This doesn’t include costs for removal of the electrical generating station, on-site transmission lines, roads, bridges, culverts, other buildings and possibly the 1,000-tonne concrete pads for each turbine.”

The group wants the bond issue addressed in the draft bylaw before it’s approved.

The possible impact on tourism and land values is also a concern.

“In Annapolis County, where the scenic beauty is so important to the economy, they should consider this when they place these wind farms,” Lewis said.

“If tourism and property values are adversely impacted, it would be extremely bad for our already fragile economy for many years to come.”

The group is urging county residents to express concerns to their councillors to have the bylaw delayed until protections are included like no tax exemptions for developers, submission of plans for site cleanup and restoration, and prior consultation with landowners.

The planning and advisory committee is scheduled to meet Sept. 6. If the draft bylaw is not held for revisions, the next step is a public meeting, tentatively scheduled for late September. Following that, council will meet to consider changes and vote on the bylaw.

Proposed areas for wind resource zones include Parker Mountain Road and Hampton Hills, on North Mountain, near Bridgetown. Also included are Victoria Beach on North Mountain and Spectacle Lake on South Mountain.

A $60-million 12-turbine wind farm is proposed for Hampton Hills, about four kilometres north of Bridgetown, by Toronto-based Sprott Power Corp.

Sprott is still in the process of receiving renewals for building permits it held for properties in Arlington, Arlington West and Hampton. In April, the company asked Nova Scotia Supreme Court to overrule a municipal decision denying the renewal.

Annapolis County announced recently it was changing its planning strategy to allow Sprott to proceed with most of the turbines.