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Petition backs setback for wind turbines

Call it a do-it-yourself referendum.

When West Lincoln township council decided not to pass a bylaw requiring a two-kilometre setback for industrial wind turbines, Cheryl Jeffery took matters into her own hands.

The Wellandport resident’s home will have four turbines within one kilometre of it, if a $500-million wind farm development moves forward as planned. So she held her own unofficial community vote in an attempt to convince council to reconsider.

“I don’t think council understands there are a lot of people that don’t want these,” she said during a West Lincoln township planning committee meeting Monday night at South Lincoln high school.

“I wanted to put a little pressure on council to tell them this community is speaking to them.”

Jeffery said she spent $1,000 to mail 3,500 flyers to homes across West Lincoln asking for votes on a two-kilometre setback – which would be nearly four times the 550-metre minimum set out by the Green Energy Act.

Jeffery said of the 1,270 responses she received, 1,231 agreed with a two-kilometre setback, 22 disagreed and 17 didn’t want turbines to be built at all regardless of setback rules.

Though council wasn’t planning on voting on the two-kilometre setback Monday, Ald. Alexander Micallef, who has previously suggested asking for the bylaw, said it has made him reconsider the idea.

“The thought has always been there, but my hold-back right now is to see what happens with Wainfleet,” he said, referring to the nearby municipality that’s defending itself in court after being sued for enacting a similar two-kilometre bylaw.

With an attendance of fewer than 200 people, Monday’s meeting drew a significantly smaller crowd than the last West Lincoln planning committee meeting Jan. 14, when the topic of a two-kilometre setback led to a 61/2-hour marathon meeting in front of more than 500 people.

Wind turbines continue to be a controversial issue in West Niagara, where a 77-turbine development proposed by the Niagara Region Wind Corp. is in the final few days of public consultation phase before being sent to the Ministry of the Environment for possible approval.

Monday’s meeting was also the first since the release of a report by Jones Consulting Group, which worked on behalf of the township to identify concerns over the NRWC proposal, which has 44 of its 77 turbines planned for West Lincoln.

The 34-page report, with community comments, will be sent to the province as part of the review process for the NRWC’s Renewable Energy Approval application.

In the Jones Consulting review of the project, numerous concerns were raised, such as the NRWC’s planned use of undeveloped roads, the lack of an emergency management plan and lack of a rehabilitation plan after the turbines are no longer in use.

Jones also identified 10 turbine locations that were problematic because of their proximity to houses, wetlands or forests.

“This is the only thing we really can do in order to tell the province that before they give the final stamp of approval, this is our commenting period we want them to look at this, this and this,” said West Lincoln Mayor Douglas Joyner.

However, NRWC spokeswoman Randi Rahamim said more detailed plans would be available when needed.

“I think many of their concerns centered around more information and all of that will be here when it’s required. We’re just not at that stage yet,” she said.

ACT BOX – Health Canada studying wind

The federal government is taking a closer look at the health effects of noise from existing industrial wind turbine developments. Health Canada and Statistics Canada are now working together on a study which will examine if wind noise is leading to:

– Sleep impairments

– Increased stress

– General indoor and outdoor annoyance

– Perceived impairment in quality of life

Homeowners in the immediate area (less than 600 metres) and in the larger surrounding area will be selected for the study.