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Wind concerns: Harmony Camden community group seeks changes to wind turbine bylaws

TRURO – A proposed wind farm for the Harmony Camden area will not proceed without community approval, the project developer says.

“If the majority of people from the Camden Harmony area do not want this, the Comfit thing is supposed to be a community based project, right?” Councillor Gerry Buott asked Community Wind Farms CEO Keith Towse.

“If they don’t want the project there, is it your intention still to put it there?”

Towse responded that his group plans to continue efforts to meet with local residents but he stated that ultimately the project would be stalled without community support. (SEE OP-ED ON PAGE 11)

“If we can’t demonstrate to your satisfaction and to the satisfaction of the Department of Energy that we have community support, then we will not build the wind farm there,” he said, with approximately 85 members of the Friends of Harmony Camden citizen group in attendance.

A partnership involving Community Wind Farms of Mahone Bay, the Eskasoni Corporate Division and the German-owned company, juwi Wind Canada are proposing a development to erect two industrial-sized wind turbines capable of producing 4.4-megawatts on undetermined sites in the Harmony/Camden area.

Towse told council the proposed project would represent a $10 million investment in Colchester County and would involve job creation, $200,000 in landowner payments, millions of dollars to local businesses and about $600,000 in municipal taxes over its anticipated 20-year life span, among other financial incentives.

He also said the partnership is prepared to provide a Harmony community sustainability fund, for community use, amounting to an estimated $353,440 over 20 years or an upfront payment of $110,000.

And while Towse said his company has an idea of where they would like to site the turbines, it will be nine to 12 months before that information will be finalized.

No attempt to apply for a municipal permit will be made before that information is available, he added.

This is the second time the community group has appeared before council to protest against what it describes as a lack of information from the company regarding where the turbines will be sited and also over suspected health concerns and property devaluation.

While group spokespersons Amy Thomas of Harmony and Deborah Smith of Camden both told council the community is in favour of wind energy projects, they stressed their belief that the municipal bylaw of a minimum 700-metre setback from residential properties is far from sufficient.

“We are recommending a minimum setback distance of two kilometers from property lines,” Thomas said, which she said would be in keeping with similar allowances in Scotland and Australia, where wind turbine development is much further advanced than Nova Scotia.

And despite suggestions by some members of council during the group’s previous presentation in June that there are no health concerns in Colchester County related to wind turbines, Smith said residents in other areas of the county are disputing such assertions.

“We now know that there are health issues. Residents from Spiddle Hill and Nuttby are talking to us,” she said, adding recent information from Health Canada is also recognizing there could be health concerns.

“We now know that there is peer review support as to the effects on health for people for families who are in close proximity to industrial wind turbines,” Smith said, of advice that Health Canada has offered to the Nova Scotia government regarding a wind farm project in the Digby area.

“We are a community of working familes, seniors and children. We know each other, we support each other and we’re asking you to act now,” Smith said. “We’re asking you to adopt these proposals,” she said, of a number of amendments the group would like to see made to the municipal wind turbine bylaw.

“We wish to state strongly that we’re here now not only for our community but for all communities in Colchester County,” she said.

Mayor Bob Taylor told the group that council’s planning advisory committee is working to address its concerns a report is expected at the next council session.