About 50 representatives from small towns across Ontario gathered in Wainfleet Friday to discuss what they view as a common problem – wind turbines.
As more than 100 people concerned about the development of wind turbine projects in their communities showed their support, elected officials and municipal staff from 20 rural communities spent the day at Jericho House on Rathfon Rd. to hear from experts on the issue. Discussion was related to putting forth unified plans to regain some control over Green Energy Act projects.
Wainfleet Mayor April Jeffs said just bringing the representatives of rural communities together was an achievement in itself.
“It’s amazing,” she said.
Ron Shenk, a councillor from Plympton-Wyoming, a town of about 8,000 people near Sarnia, said the conference marked “the beginning of co-operation among rural municipalities.”
“We’re coming together with one voice.”
Like Wainfleet, Plympton-Wyoming has also implemented a two-kilometre setback for wind turbine developments, contravening the Green Energy Act.
“When the provincial government takes away your planning rights, what’s next?” said Shenk.
Although Wainfleet and Plympton-Wyoming both face lawsuits from developers for establishing a 2-km setback, Central Huron Coun. Alex Westerhout said a big statement could be made if all 91 municipalities affected by the Green Energy Act passed similar planning restrictions.
“We need to convince our colleagues from urban centres that what is happening in rural centres is wrong,” said Joann Chechalk, a town councillor from West Lincoln. “The Municipal Act said we have rights. The Green Energy Act took it all away.”
Wainfleet Ald. Betty Konc said many “innovative ideas” were discussed amongst conference participants.
One of those ideas was to establish a committee with representation from rural communities across Ontario, to “take on the issue and speak with the powers that be.”
Jeffs said other municipalities are taking action in different ways. For instance, the Town of Blue Water is charging million-dollar development fees for wind turbine projects.
“We do have a lot of support, and I’ve been told by other municipal councillors in the past that we’re not alone. We have to remember that.”
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