KENTVILLE – Opponents of large-scale wind farm development in Kings County delivered a strong message to local politicians Wednesday night.
About 200 people crammed into the Kings County council chambers in Kentville to express their views at a public hearing as council continues to struggle with the controversial issue.
The social and economic costs of such projects, and their risks, appear to outweigh the benefits, said Andrew Steeves, who lives in Black River Lake and owns Gaspereau Press.
“What we have seen, so far, is the democratic process working,” Steeves said about council’s willingness to listen to citizens’ concerns regarding health issues, noise, declining property values and the impact of large wind farms on tourist attractions.
Dr. Carl Phillips, an American epidemiologist invited by local citizens, presented evidence regarding the health effects of wind turbines. Those effects include sleep and mood disorders, headaches and increased stress, Phillips said.
Important health effects happen in half of the people exposed as far as 2 1/2 kilometres away from large-scale sites, he said.
It would be “unconscionable” to allow wind farms less than 1,600 metres from homes, Phillips said.
“At 700 metres, we have tremendous risk.’’
The North and South mountains are well populated, Jack McMaster said as he presented slides showing large swaths of destruction during construction of large farms in other parts of the world.
Baxters Harbour resident Rick Graham calculated the number of private residences in his neighborhood that are within 1,000 metres of the proposed turbines on North Mountain, and said the total was 713.
“And people think no one lives there,” Graham said.
The Municipal Government Act talks about the health and safety of communities, he said.
“The municipality does indeed have broad powers … to regulate this issue.”
Businessman Gerry Fulton presented a dissenting voice, saying the continuing debate is casting Kings County in a bad light.
“It’s decisions like this that scare businesses away from Kings County.”
A wind farm would inject significant tax dollars, Fulton said.
“A government that makes rules should not rescind them immediately after they make them.”
The public hearing was required after council gave first reading last month to a recommendation from its planning advisory committee to rescind its existing bylaw and prohibit all major wind projects while it reviews such developments.
Second reading is expected in July. The province must then approve it.
The move comes in response to strong public opposition to proposed large-scale wind farms in the Greenfield area on South Mountain and a large swath of land from Arlington to West Black Rock Road on North Mountain.
Last year, the county approved a new wind turbine bylaw that would allow a developer to establish large-scale wind turbines within 700 metres of a home if they met municipal building permit requirements.
There was no limit on the size or number of structures and no opportunity for public input.
Residents became alarmed after learning of Scotian WindField’s proposed development on South Mountain, and a potentially huge wind farm on North Mountain proposed by Acciona Wind Energy Canada Inc., a subsidiary of a multinational firm in Spain.
Acciona’s plan calls for 20 to 30 turbines that range in height from 80 to 120 metres and have blade lengths of 50 to 60 metres.