Plenty of questions, some passionate comments and a councilor that asked residents to exercise some patience with council.
It was another spirited Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanash council meeting Aug. 8 with wind turbines the main focus.
Residents asked for an update from council on the possibility of a survey, or poll, to get a handle on how many in the township support wind turbines, or, depending on the wording of the question, are opposed.
The K2 Windpower project proposes 138 wind turbines in the township and residents in both opposition and support have been vocal.
The project adds to an existing wind power farm in the township.
Residents have suggested the use of a voters-list, however, as township staff discovered researching the topic, that may be a no-go.
Deputy clerk Linda Andrew explained that an election voters-list could only be used for municipal election purposes. There must be a clear answer to a question, Andrew noted.
The outcome of the question must be within the jurisdiction of the municipality to implement and may not go against provincial policy.
That raised a red flag of sorts: the provincial Liberal government has championed green energy and it is using wind power in particular as the flagship for that endeavor.
“I don’t know how to come up with a question that won’t be challenged, but that is not a reason for trying,” Coun. Roger Watt said.
Watt suggested a property tax list could be used but that wouldn’t include renters. “It’s not the ideal mailing list but it’s the best thing we have if we decide to go through with it.”
In open forum, Paul Shantz, an ACW cottage owner, said council should hold premier Dalton McGuinty accountable for stating that if a community is not in favour of wind turbines, the province will respect their wishes. “A poll will give you an example of what is going on in your community and whether or not people are in favour,” he said.
“Let us be the first to say, ‘you said these words, now respect them’,” Shantz said of the premier’s promise.
Using the tax base and inviting renters to vote “would pretty much cover everyone in the area with a say in the matter”, Shantz said.
Coun. Watt said he is unsure what council would learn from a survey, other than people are opposed and people are in support.
Coun. Barry Million suggested council gather more information from others sources, including the Ministry of Environment.
“Let’s just sit on it for now,” he said.
Community Benefit Fund
Resident Anita Frayne asked council if a public meeting would be called before a final decision was made on a community benefit agreement. “I think we would be idiots if we didn’t take it public,” Coun. Watt said. “This is our current intent,” Coun. Million added.
Earlier, Coun. Million said the, “important thing is to finish the work started on the agreement, get it out for public scrutiny, and take that feedback that comes back” and then move forward.
“I think as soon as we have a workable agreement with K2, we take it public,” he added. Resident Shawn Drennan asked council for enough time for concerned residents to get legal advice on the agreement.
Tsk, tsk, Bernie
In her follow-up letter to the July 17 meeting, Frayne asked if ACW council would contact Bernie MacLellan about comments he made about wind turbines at a Huron East council meeting last month.
MacLellan, mayor of Huron East and warden of the county, was quoted in the Signal Star saying that “ACW seems quite content with the turbines up there and some municipalities, like Goderich, don’t have any issue at all.” Frayne asked council to clarify with MacLellan that that is not the situation in ACW, so he can put it right with Huron East and County council.
“I don’t know what rock he has been living under,” Coun. Watt said of the comments, which ran in the July 25 edition of the Signal Star.
“I’m not Barry Million, I’m Councillor Million”
A few residents at the meeting expressed their thoughts during the open forum. It was noted by a resident who supports green energy that people often forget that they are opposed to traditional forums of energy production, such as coal and electrical.
Another agreed that green energy is important but the way big companies have gone about it leaves corporate pockets lined and residents left with little compensation.
“My response to this whole evening would be this,” offered Coun. Million. “When I sit up here, I’m not Barry Million. I’m Coun. Million and that puts me in a different position.”
“The thing that keeps coming up is representing the people.”
“There is a very strong indication that the majority of the people don’t want wind turbines. So how do we represent those people? How do we represent people who are in favour of them? We can only do that within the confines of the law. That is what we are trying to find out, that is why we are waiting to hear back from the Ministry of the Environment. I want people to understand that. We are not opposing anyone.”
“Five years ago when this all started, it started because we didn’t know what to do with it. That’s why we went to the (ministry). We asked them to study wind turbine experts’ reports because we didn’t know what to do. And there are still unanswered questions.
“People have asked us to openly state we are strongly opposed to wind power. We have also been asked by people in favour of wind that this council should speak up. Because there are unanswered questions we are not doing either one. We are looking for answers and looking for ways to get the answers. I want you to understand that.”
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