Cumberland County has a new bylaw for wind farms, but it wasn’t without lengthy debate and some compromise.
County councillors passed its land-use bylaws through second reading, but only after agreeing to extend the setback between wind turbines and habitable buildings from 500 metres to 600.
The county is also going to look at zoning certain parts of the county for wind development and excluding others, partially in response to a large number of submissions from Gulf Shore residents opposed to maintaining setbacks at 500 metres.
“I really believe this is positive and we’re heading in the right direction,” Deputy Warden Gerald Read said following the nearly four-hour session. “I’m very pleased with what the end result was and now we can move forward in a positive manner.”
Read was very concerned with comments calling on the county to extend the distance between homes and wind turbines to 1,000 metres saying it would essentially kill a number of projects under consideration across the county and take Cumberland out of the wind energy field.
“We have a number of companies that are looking at this area and they would have to be tossed if the setbacks were 1,000 metres or more. It wouldn’t allow for any of them,” Read said. “The way we’ve done it and with the idea of creating zones it should allow those wind projects to go ahead in areas where people aren’t opposed to them and protect those people in other areas who are against them. I think it’s very responsible.”
The county started looking at changing its land-use bylaw in 2010 and held a number of open houses around the county. County planner Penny Henneberry proposed a number of amendments that went to a series of public meetings around the county and were the subject of a survey that those opposed to any wind farm on the Gulf Shore felt was flawed.
Following the meeting, Lisa Betts of the Gulf Shore Preservation Association said the idea of zoning has merit in that it won’t stop projects that do have merit.
“It’s a positive move. Obviously it’s not as much as we would have liked, but it’s a positive step,” Betts said following the vote. “In the meantime council has shown a lot more education and understanding from the last time we were here. It’s a huge difference.”
She said her association wants to make sure the county is protecting its residents and ratepayers as opposed to protecting a few people trying to run a business.