I’m sure the sustainability committee of the Cochrane High School never realized how much commotion would be caused by their wind turbine project. They never second-guessed the support of their surrounding Cochrane Heights neighbours. After all, their other renewable energy projects, some of them award winning, did not receive any opposition.
But the confrontation that has been termed “nasty” by town councillor Jeff Toews continues to get worse, so much so Mayor Truper McBride has given a notice of motion to address the issue by involving the community in a discussion on how projects like the wind turbine, solar panels, geo-thermal energy, all forms of current renewal energy, should be addressed by the town land-use bylaw. He said the town’s municipal plan supports the idea of using renewal energy sources, but there is no land-use policy in place to direct what’s acceptable.
Only a few months ago, students from the school’s sustainability committee made comment on their unforeseen controversy during a global warming information session. They provided some comments after being encouraged by the moderator to discuss their project. And while they were greeted with warm applause by the people in attendance, they expressed frustration that the vast majority of opinions published on the matter in local newspapers, ours included, have been negative.
These young people should be applauded because they have proven to be way ahead of the rest of the community—many Alberta communities—when it comes to putting their beliefs into practice. You are leaders on the edge and you are making people stand up and take note.
But they aren’t the only ones who should be applauded. The No Turbines in Town group have helped illustrate a valuable point, too. They have brought to the forefront the need for the town to set land-use policies on this same issue because, after all, it’s their neighbourhood, too, and they have the mortgages to prove it.
Should McBride’s notice of motion pass it will give the entire community the opportunity to discuss the issue and bring the issue to a head. While the final decisions will not likely be popular with everyone, it will give a direction set by the community, because in the big picture it is a community issue. A wind turbine could be coming to your neighbourhood next – what will be your stand?
Secondly, the timelines suggested has this discussion continuing well into 2014. By doing so, it lessens the impact of the issue on this fall’s municipal election. That, as a newspaper, is a little disappointing, but it may allow for a more level conversation.
Regardless of the rationale, the bottom line is clear. The community needs this discussion and the town needs to establish a framework for implementation of renewal energy generation projects. While the Alberta Utilities Commission has the final say, the town needs to have its own mind on the issue.
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