West Lincoln residents opposed to industrial wind turbines in their community may get from council what they have long been asking for.
At a rescheduled council meeting Wednesday night at South Lincoln High School, after a dozen residents spoke out against the project, Ald. Alexander Micallef announced he would be bringing a motion to council’s next meeting regarding industrial wind turbines.
“It’s come to my attention that other municipalities have taken bold actions,” said Micallef, citing Wainfleet’s passing of a two kilometre setback bylaw and similar actions by councils in Blue Water and Middlesex. “I am putting a notice on the table that at the next meeting of council, I will be asking this council to deal with a two kilometre setback and fees for dealing with industrial wind turbines,” to which the alderman received a standing ovation.
The gym at SLHS was packed Wednesday for the rescheduled Dec. 10 council meeting, which was adjourned after hundreds showed up at township hall despite there being no reference to industrial wind turbines on the agenda. The reason for the turnout was the public comments section of the meeting, in which residents are able to speak their mind about issues in the township to a maximum of 10 minutes. Niagara Region Wind Corp., which is planning a 230-megaWatt wind farm in the community, was planning to use that portion of the meeting to promote an upcoming job fair, which has now passed.
Council chambers were packed with both supporters and opponents and Ald. Joanne Chechalk was quick to put the kibosh on the meeting, introducing a motion to adjourn at the first available moment.
The opposition crowd was back in droves Wednesday, many sporting red “no to turbines” T-shirts, similar to bright green pro-wind shirts worn by the supporting crowd Dec. 10.
The majority of residents who spoke at Wednesday’s meeting requested council do what Micallef has asked – pass a bylaw requiring a minimum setback of two kilometres from a dwelling for industrial wind turbines. The request is not new to West Lincoln council, which voted against enacting a setback bylaw last February. A report from township planner Brian Treble said passing a setback bylaw would hold no power as the province established setback and noise guidelines through its Green Energy Act.
Residents have since repeatedly asked council to follow on the heels of its neighbour, Wainfleet, which is now being sued by wind developer Wainfleet Wind Energy Inc. over that bylaw. Many praised that municipality’s mayor, April Jeffs, for standing up against the provincial government.
After calling the situation “the worst tragedy to ever happen in West Lincoln,” Clifford Travis asked the mayor and council “on behalf of the residents of West Lincoln, implement a two kilometre setback and order the government to stop these turbines.”
Mike Chelupa wasn’t so soft-spoken in his request.
“You were elected to be our voices,” he roared at council. “Fight for us like Mayor April Jeffs is doing.”
The crowd, which filled the gym floor and bleachers, erupted in applause.
One resident said the fight should be around the facts.
“Let’s look at each one of these turbines and let’s find the facts,” said Hans Janzen, who encouraged all West Lincoln residents to do their own homework. “Let’s nail these guys with facts.”
While members of the public expressed frustration over an alleged lack of action from council, that isn’t the case. West Lincoln council has already passed two moratoriums on the issue – the first was passed by the previous council after word broke of a five-turbine project by IPC Energy in the Caistor Centre area, the second asking for a halt on projects until results of a federal health study in IWTs is completed in 2014. The Green Energy Act limits the municipality’s role in the decision-making process, giving the township little control over either project. Which is why Ald. Sue-Ellen Merritt has not supported a setback bylaw in the past.
“I’d hate to give you a false reassurance,” she told residents Wednesday. “I’ve said it before, how can you enforce a bylaw that, one, you can’t enforce, and two, is put in retroactively to stop something?”
The township had already secured SLHS for Monday’s meeting, as a number of planning issues are on the agenda, including one related to IWTs. Council recently committed to moving meetings with issues such as wind turbines, which are likely to draw out a large crowd, to a larger venue to ensure all residents are able to participate in the meeting.
Council will debate Ald. Micallef’s motion at the Monday, Jan. 14 planning and development meeting, 6:30 p.m. at South Lincoln High School.
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