Wind farm development may be banned for now in Kings County, but the one councillor who supported it this week hopes that will change come fall.
Provincewide municipal elections are coming in October, and Coun. Wayne Atwater, a 21-year council veteran, said he plans to be there to get it back on the agenda.
“It’s gone until the next council comes along, and I’ll be probably one of the first ones to get it back on the table,” he said Wednesday.
On Tuesday night, the council for the Municipality of the County of Kings voted 10-1 to rescind its bylaw on wind farm development and not permit such projects while it does another review of issues around them.
Council had just passed the bylaw last year. It worked on the bylaw for three years and held public meetings about it.
In January, council decided to review the bylaw after getting a petition from residents concerned about a potential development by Scotian WindFields in the Greenfield area on South Mountain, south of Wolfville.
Hundreds of people went to the public meetings during the review, and officials at 14 Wing Greenwood were concerned about a potential North Mountain development.
Atwater said he thinks colleagues who changed their minds on the bylaw and plan to run again were concerned about facing voters in a little more than three months.
“I think (the election) has all to do with it because all the councillors that it’s going to affect all voted yes last night,” he said.
Not so, said Coun. Dick Killam.
Part of his district was slated for the North Mountain development. A subsidiary of Spanish conglomerate Acciona proposed it.
“I haven’t even attached those two things together,” Killam said. “I’ve heard from the community at large in my area. They had 1,072 names on a petition, and that was the concern.
“It wouldn’t matter if there was an election or if the world was coming to an end; they did not want this to happen with the present policy. The timing was irrelevant, as far as I’m concerned.”
Council developed the bylaw after Scotian WindFields made a presentation to see if the county was interested, he said.
The concept sounded good, and council opted to go ahead and develop a policy, Killam said.
But he said the issue wasn’t on the public’s radar at the time, and there was little input from residents.
The issue crystallized after Scotian WindFields put up a test turbine, and after an Acciona official made a presentation to council in March about its plans for development over five years.
Killam said he is still not opposed to the idea of wind farms in Kings County, but the conditions must be right and residents’ concerns about health impacts and property devaluation addressed.
There must be a greater distance between homes and turbines than the 700 metres the bylaw required, he said.
Kings County’s step back from wind farms is a sharp contrast to other municipalities.
The Municipality of the District of Guysborough wants to be the first in the province to build and own a wind farm in a partnership with Nova Scotia Power. The project was recently registered for an environmental assessment.
Cumberland County has its arms open to wind power development, despite a pocket of opposition to a project in the Pugwash area, said Warden Keith Hunter.
“I actually am glad that Kings County took the stance that they took because we are open for wind development in Cumberland County and this just means one less competitor,” Hunter said.
The province is counting on an increase in wind-generated power to help it reach its renewable energy targets – 25 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2015 and 40 per cent by 2020.
Premier Darrell Dexter said there are enough projects in the works to allow the province to do that, even with Kings County’s ban.
Dexter said he hopes council will revisit the issue quickly to see what’s a reasonable approach to wind development.
He said he understands why council wouldn’t want to allow development while it changes its policy.
“One would hope that you would try to find it as quickly as possible, and my assumption is that it will be sometime after October,” he said, referring to the election.
Dexter said he doesn’t think the province should impose a wind development policy on municipalities. The municipal policies vary and include different setback distances. Hunter said it is 600 metres in Cumberland County, changed earlier this year from 500 metres.
Dexter said differences in topography and other issues leave municipalities in the best position to decided on zoning.
“It’s up to them to determine their own zoning requirements. There may well be good reasons for them to be different in different places.
“Generally speaking in Nova Scotia, we’ve found that a one-size-fits-all kind of approach doesn’t really fit all.”
Hunter said there is a template municipalities can use in developing their bylaws.
Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations approves changes to municipal planning strategies, so Kings County would have to apply to the department to have the bylaw formally struck.
Municipal Relations Minister John MacDonell said the matter won’t reach his desk and is up to staff. Staff will look at whether the county followed the correct process in rescinding the bylaw, he said.
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