WINCHESTER – The anti-wind movement blew into the Council Chambers last week, stirring some sympathy but no formal expression of township opposition to potential turbine projects on North Dundas soil just yet.
Watched by a standing-room-only crowd of about 100 that spilled into the corridor, council postponed a vote on presenter Theresa Bergeron’s proposed resolution declaring the township an “industrial wind turbine ‘no zone’” – until after the industry has a chance to offer a rebuttal at council’s invitation. Those details weren’t finalized at the Sept. 18 session, though Mayor Eric Duncan announced a company would be invited to appear sometime in October. (Township Clerk Jo-Anne McCaslin has since confirmed that EDP Renewables Canada Ltd. – known to be pursuing land north of Chesterville – will make its case at 7 p.m. on Oct. 30.)
While the mayor also predicted council would ultimately pass Bergeron’s resolution, he and his colleagues repeatedly emphasized the provincial government’s bully-boy control over renewable energy development left them with no power over the matter anyway.
Anticipating this stance, Bergeron earned loud applause from the crowd when she implored council at the end of her speech: “We have heard you repeat too often … there is nothing the township can do. The first thing you can do is pass this motion … and inform our government agencies as well as the turbine companies that we do not approve of wind turbines here.”
“If we want to maintain our peaceful lives, attract growth and business, let it be known that North Dundas will be wind-turbine-free, a place of peace and tranquility, where we can enjoy our surroundings and sleep with our windows open at night,” she said, also requesting that council’s vote be recorded.
Founder of the informal North Dundas Wind Concerns group, Bergeron owns an Angora goat farm near South Mountain but resides on a Crump Road dairy farm near Chesterville. Landowners in the vicinity of both rural areas have been quietly approached to sign leases or option-to-lease agreements with wind-power development firms.
She found the prospect contrary to the usual standard neighbourliness that prevails in North Dundas, relating heartwarming personal anecdotes of one helping another through the years. “If this is ‘backward country,’ I say, bring it on, man,” said the 29-year resident of North Dundas, belittling a disparaging description of the area once told to her by folks in Cambridge.
She never felt compelled to address council before in her life, Bergeron said as she began her remarks, emphasizing the seriousness of the issue.
Putting her self-penned resolution on the table, she read from the document aloud.
The preamble began by acknowledging Premier Dalton McGuinty’s recent assurance that Feed-In Tariff (FIT) applications “from communities without majority support would go to the back of the line,” as well as a new rule mandating that developers seek municipal support before applying for a FIT contract (under a new points-based system imposed in August).
While making no direct claims about health effects, the preamble highlighted Health Canada’s recently commissioned study on the issue.
It also alleged other “adverse effects” on host communities, such as fostering division and reduced property values, and asserted that wind projects pose a threat to: the township’s municipal water supply in the Morewood esker; local air ambulance service; and the township’s tranquility and economic growth.
In light of that leadup, “We, the people of North Dundas, ask council to make a motion to declare North Dundas an industrial wind turbine no zone; we also ask this motion be sent to Premier McGuinty, the minister of Environment, and Minister of Environment, the FIT funding board, our local MPP Jim McDonell, that all may know that North Dundas does not approve of wind turbine projects in our community, we are an agricultural community, not an industrial community,” Bergeron declared at the heart of her motion.
With no projects built yet in North Dundas, the township has the advantage of learning from the mistakes of Western Ontario communities now “suffering” from installed wind farms, she said.
A farmer from that end of the province had warned her, “Keep those things out your community,” she advised council.
Another contact told her that Ontario’s Ministry of Environment never fines wind farms for failing to comply with noise limits that govern them, she said. “Don’t expect the ministry to protect your health once these turbines are up and running.”
The Ontario Real Estate sellers’ questionnaire lists windmills in the same section as waste disposal sites and soil contamination, she said, “not golf courses or waterfront.”
A contractor lost a homebuilding job in Shanly after the buying couple learned they would overlook windmills, she said.
“Industrial wind turbines are not green,” said the organic advocate who markets her Thermohair angora wool socks around the world. They require backup power systems on the grid – gas plants – “that are actually increasing our greenhouse gas emissions,” said Bergeron, who has a bachelor of science degree from the University of Guelph.
“We are paying billions of dollars for power we are not even using.”
She condemned the process leading to the construction of wind farms.
“Big business does not openly approach the township with an ad in the local paper asking for land leases. Why? Because they are aware of the social destruction they leave in their wake.”
She likened wind developers to “snakes in the grass … hoping to get all their ducks in a row before the neighbours find out. They have no concept of community because their lives revolve around money.”
Bergeron also thanked several farmers and landowners by name, saying they had refused to sign with wind developers: Racine Farms, Gordon Blow, Gord Richardson, “the Boyd clan,” Ron McKeen, Lyle Belway, Ralph deVries, Garnett Wilkins, Angus and Garnet Crump, Mrs. Marcellus and Mrs. White, Ron and Nicole Centen, David Chambers, “Carl, Robert and Barry Smith on Smith Road,” Ron and Sam Misener, Ron and Kevin Darling, Eric Breteler and John Cayer.
“We are very limited in our ability to stop these [developments],” said Mayor Eric Duncan, opening council’s response to the presentation. Duncan added he had received email both for and against wind projects – with the latter representing the majority of correspondence. Duncan took pains to clarify that council cannot veto such a project, only withhold two points on the province’s new scale of 18. The Green Energy Act, “to me, is against the spirit of local government,” he said, noting that Queen’s Park amended 26 pieces of legislation to accommodate McGuinty’s law.
Emphasizing the need to “temper expectations,” the mayor repeated, “At the end of the day, the decision is not North Dundas Council’s whether this goes in or not.
“I don’t think it’s right, but we have to play with the cards we’re dealt with.”
Councillor Al Armstrong commended Bergeron and compared the issue – and lack of municipal authority – to discussions about the spreading of biosolids years ago. “I think you’ll see very clearly … we’re not endorsing wind turbines. But we’re also incapable of stopping them.”
Armstrong said he was prepared to echo the majority view of North Dundas residents, believing most oppose turbines. “However, if they [turbines] were all to start sprouting up, it is not done with the endorsement of or against the wishes of a council.”
“We have no power over this. I do believe this council does not endorse wind turbines coming around here. We will do everything we can … to make it very clear to the Ontario government but that will be about as much power as we have.”
“Exactly. And that’s exactly what we want you to do,” replied Bergeron.
The councillor also leapt in to clarify that council had never before discussed whether to endorse or not endorse such projects.
North Dundas Planning Director Calvin Pol noted that if every municipality in the province withholds two points from project developers, nothing will have changed. Local aboriginal communities actually have more say, at three points, he added.
“I don’t see a lot of municipalities signing on [giving their two points] saying, ‘Sure, come over here,” said Pol.
“It’s a huge slap in the face to [municipal] self determination,” Armstrong said of council’s two-point allotment – 11 per cent of the total.
“I think it’s nothing more than a game of smoke and mirrors the province is playing in terms of changing the rules,” complained Duncan.
“I don’t know how many points they will need to be told that cannot do it,” observed Councillor John Thompson, who added, “Yes, we can say we do not want them in our township.”
“Nobody wants to see them here in North Dundas,” said Councillor Tony Fraser, though he described the process as “almost inevitable.”
“You’ve got to think positive,” urged Bergeron.
“I hate to see people go out and then be disappointed because it’s almost as if the die is cast,” said Fraser.
“You all sound so defeatist,” interjected an audience member, leading to a ripple of murmurs the mayor dissipated by pounding the gavel for the first time in his career.
“I think we’re all on the same page,” said Duncan, but again emphasizing the need for understanding council’s constraints.
Deputy Mayor Gerry Boyce struck a bolder tone and yielded the only other round of applause that evening. “I support everything you’re doing, and I’m totally against the Green Energy program, and I’ll do whatever I can to assist you to see that this is defeated,” he told Bergeron. “Because as I’m concerned, I’m not defeated yet.”
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