NORFOLK – The province has told wind-farm promoters to seek the support of municipal councils before filing their applications.
That avenue in Norfolk County, however, will remain closed until further notice.
Municipal approval is not mandatory for the establishment of wind farms in Ontario. But it remains important because the Ministry of the Environment is willing to fast-track proposals that come with municipal support.
The county took pre-emptive action Tuesday when it approved a resolution stating that council would not entertain wind-farm proposals until the results of ongoing studies into the health effects of turbines become available. The University of Waterloo is preparing an updated report, as is the federal government.
Port Dover Coun. John Wells tabled Tuesday’s resolution.
“I’d be happy with any study that gave us insights into the health effects of wind turbines,” he said. “Whatever health study comes first, I’d be happy to abide by its results.”
Since wind-farm development in Ontario began in earnest several years ago, dozens of people have stepped forward with complaints of wide-ranging symptoms they attribute to the presence of turbines. Authorities are studying whether turbines cause subtle vibrations or emit subsonic noises that disturb sleep and impair health over time.
Wells’ motion passed in a 4-3 vote.
Oliver added that – by tying council’s hands – the county may deprive farmers of revenue from the leasing of their land. The county may also deprive itself of tax revenue.
Oliver also doesn’t like the message Wells’ resolution sends to the 200 workers at the Siemens turbine rotor plant in Tillsonburg, many of whom reside in Norfolk.
“We’re not being supportive of them, obviously, if we pass this,” Oliver said.
Langton Coun. Roger Geysens doubts there is anywhere in Norfolk with setbacks larger than the provincial minimum of 550 metres. Geysens said generous policies in the past regarding one-off-the-farm severances has seen to that.
Waterford Coun. Harold Sonnenberg wanted to know why the county is waiting for new studies when wind technology has been studied extensively for decades in Europe. Sonnenberg said council should rely on the established science and get on with it.
“I don’t care if we get one, the other, or both of them at the same time,” Mayor Dennis Travale said of the U of W and federal investigations. “Once we get a health study, we will revisit the issue.”
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