Meaford council is formally discouraging any more industrial wind development applications.
A 4-2 vote Monday night confirmed Meaford council “is not desirous of any Industrial Wind Turbine development within our corporation.”
The resolution from Deputy-mayor Harley Greenfield requests wind developers not apply in Meaford.
Wind turbine opponents who filled the chairs in the council chamber applauded the vote. Some called it a good start, although the statement stops short of the bylaw residents requested to increase turbine setbacks to two kilometres from the nearest buildings.
“I was asking for something a bit stronger,” said Mike Osborn, who has sought council’s formal opposition to wind development on behalf of a local residents group.
But Monday’s vote indicates at least a majority of councillors now share his concerns about turbine impact, including his focus on health.
The clear message from council against wind development may – as Greenfield and other councillors said they hope – move Meaford to the bottom of the list for any future project approvals under the Green Energy Act, Osborn said.
“If nothing else it buys us some time,” he said after the meeting.
Meaford resident Mike Belec, who has often encouraged council to take a position against wind turbines, said after Monday’s meeting the decision finally clarifies Meaford’s position.
“It’s a step forward,” Belec said. “If we’re not in favour of wind turbines, and we don’t say no, even if we think we’re powerless, then there’s no chance.”
Councillors Deborah Young and Lynda Stephens both argued against the resolution. They said under the Green Energy Act jurisdiction over wind turbines belongs entirely with the provincial government.
Stephens said without a referendum to determine how many residents oppose or favour wind development, she could not support a formal stance discouraging wind projects.
“I have to say that I’m supporting all residents and we have some that want them and some that do not,” she said. “I can’t directly say no we do not want them.”
Young argued that Meaford has more important concerns and there is currently no request before council related to any wind development projects. The issue is between land owners and wind developers, under terms of the Green Energy Act, she said.
“I think this is a provincial matter. It’s not a municipal matter,” Young said. “I’ve never heard of anyone in the government saying that we would not get them if we did not want them.”
But Greenfield told council the Green Energy Act has taken away municipal control over such developments, but Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has said the government will not impose wind turbine projects on municipalities that don’t want them.
“We’ve got a window of opportunity here and I would suggest we take this opportunity to say no,” Greenfield said.
Bill Walker, the Conservative MPP for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, confirmed Tuesday the Liberals have said municipalities where wind projects are welcome will have priority.
“I do think there is a glimmer of hope” for municipalities who don’t want the wind projects, Walker said.
Walker also said he is “fully supportive” of Meaford’s opposition to industrial turbines. Walker and other Conservatives have called for a complete moratorium on any wind development until questions about health impacts are fully resolved. Meaford has also passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on wind development.
Mayor Richardson, who relinquished the chair to speak before the vote, said nothing in the resolution opposes the Green Energy Act. Instead, it clarifies council’s position for potential developers.
“We are only asking with this resolution” that developers not apply,” he said. “We are not going to the province and saying we’re going to fight you.”
Richardson also said he has received e-mails from all over the municipality, all opposed to industrial wind development, none in favour, without exception.
“If it is our job to represent the people who voted us to sit around this table that has to mean something to us. It does to me,” the mayor said.
Coun. Mike Poetker spoke only from his realtor’s perspective. He said buyers now ask about potential wind projects before looking at property. He said property values won’t just drop 30%, as some have estimated.
“I would suggest they may drop 100%, because people won’t buy them. There is no value,” Poetker said.
Coun. Barb Clumpus said the turbines would deter tourism and that lower property values bring less tax revenue for Meaford, among other arguments against the turbines and for the resolution. She also said she has never seen a business case outlining any benefits for municipalities that host industrial wind projects.
Contacted Tuesday by The Sun Times, the Canadian Wind Energy Association disputed that in a statement.
“The claim that no municipality has seen benefits from wind energy is simply incorrect,” spokesman Chris Forrest said in an an e-mailed release.
“Wind energy projects are delivering millions of dollars in new annual tax revenues and lease payments to landowners, creating good local jobs, providing contracts for local suppliers, and benefiting the broader community through unique vibrancy funds, as well as providing Ontario with new clean power,” the release said.
Clumpus did object to the timing of Monday’s resolutions and asked to table the discussion until after staff report to council in August about turbine setbacks and the strength any local bylaws would have against the Green Energy Act.
No one seconded her motion, so the vote went ahead Monday, with Clumpus, Greenfield, Poetker and Richardson all voting in favour of discouraging wind developers.
Only Young and Stephens voted against the resolution, while Coun. James McIntosh declared a conflict and did not vote or discuss the issue.
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