Changes expected to county wind turbine rules
Credit: Nancy Kelly, www.kingscountynews.ca 2 May 2012 ~~
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Public pressure has prompted Kings County council to review its bylaw regulating the development of large-scale wind turbine projects.
At a packed April 24 meeting, planning advisory committee (PAC) members voted to begin the process of changing the current bylaw, with the intention of not permitting any large-scale wind turbines in any area of Kings County in the interim.
The committee’s unanimous decision to seek an amendment to the MPS effectively rescinding the current policy was met with applause from the gallery. The process begins with a public participation meeting scheduled in council chambers May 10 at 5 p.m.
The current bylaw, enacted in June 2011, supports “large-scale wind development where there is a known wind resource and where large-scale wind development is compatible with the surrounding land uses.” Citing its wind energy resource as the greatest in areas along the North and South Mountains, the bylaw demonstrates Council’s intention “to encourage wind development in a way that limits safety, noise and visual impacts on neighbouring uses. This will be achieved by requiring minimum setbacks and separation distances between large-scale wind turbines and neighbouring dwellings.”
Opposition to a large-scale wind farm project proposed for a sites in Greenfield, Canaan and the North Mountain has been steady, drawing hundreds of people to public meetings held in February and March and generating close to 500 responses to a questionnaire on the issue. During the consultation process council heard not only from area residents, but also from the project developer, 14 Wing Greenwood, the provincial department of the environment and, on April 23, consultants who presented a study on the health and safety impacts of large scale wind farm projects.
The gallery in chambers was packed for PAC’s April 24 discussion and decision during which planning manager Ben Sivak laid out two options for the committee to consider.
“You can review and amend the current policy or rescind the current regulations and draft new ones.” The latter choice, he indicated would involve a two-step process. Sivak reminded committee members and councilors who joined the meeting of the importance of adhering to the municipal planning strategy (MPS) in making any changes to the bylaw. Sivak’s planning policy comments, particularly with respect to timelines, seemed to confuse some committee members.
Merrill Ward, who sits on PAC as a citizen representative, expressed his frustration.
“Time has run out, we want the bylaw taken off the books. But I am confused. I have no idea how long anything will take.”
Some apprehension was also expressed that placing a moratorium on wind farm development might expose the county to legal action.
Citing the concerns of his constituents, Coun. Mike Ennis urged planners to take action “as fast as you can within the rules. I have no concerns for a developer right now.”
Couns. Dick Killam and Jim Taylor presented a public petition with 1,072 names against large-scale wind farm development to chief administrative office Bob Ashley. Committee chairwoman Janet Newton then opened the floor to comments from the public.
Black River Road resident Warren Peck was one of several people openly critical of the role planning staff played in the wind farm application process. He alleged a pro-wind farm bias in the planning department and urged council not to “let the tail wag the dog” in making important decisions.
Newton admonished the gallery, threatening to adjourn the meeting if the verbal assault on staff continued.
“I won’t have our staff attacked. They have a municipal planning strategy to enforce. It is their job and they work with the tools council gave them.”
Newton commented staff may have been pro-wind farm, as was council at the time the bylaw was drafted.
Coun. Basil Hall acknowledged “we made some errors the first time. But we have chosen to listen. Our intention is to get this right.”
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