After a lengthy discussion and some heated debate, Huron East Council and an anti-wind turbine group could be moving forward together.
After a presentation by Huron East Against Turbines (HEAT) at council’s March 19 meeting, councillors prepared two notices of motion that will be considered at council’s April 2 meeting.
The first notice of motion, brought forward by Councillors Bill Siemon and Larry McGrath at HEAT’s request, was that council declare the Municipality of Huron East an “unwilling host” to wind turbines. The term references Premier Kathleen Wynne’s throne speech where she said she would only want to see wind turbines built in “willing host communities”.
The councillors were also careful to include, in addition to turbines, transmission lines and transformer stations.
The second notice of motion, brought forward by McGrath and Councillor Bob Fisher, was to draft an agreement that would be optional between the municipality and a wind turbine company. The agreement would have the company take responsibility for any changes in sound levels, property values or health quality as a result of their operation.
The agreement would not be mandatory, said HEAT member Gerry Ryan, but he stated that if a company refused to sign the agreement, that it should raise red flags in council’s mind as to the proposed operation and its safety.
The reasoning behind the agreement, HEAT members said, is that it’s not a bylaw, so it can’t be challenged in court.
Both motions will return to council for consideration and discussion on April 2.
Council spoke with HEAT members Jean Melady, Tom Melady and Gerry Ryan after HEAT’s presentation, which criticized council for not taking an active role in opposing wind turbines.
“We’ve been coming here for four years,” said Jean Melady, “and we’re still requesting action and accountability.”
Melady added that she had heard a lot of talk from councillors saying they support HEAT’s efforts, saying that they wish they could support them further, but in the end, no action has been taken, which makes council’s reasons for not getting involved sound a lot like excuses.
“You’ve got six land owners who want [turbines],” Ryan told councillors, “and you’ve got hundreds that don’t want it and they’ve said that very cleary.”
HEAT members also said they were extremely disappointed when they heard council had not submitted its municipal consultation form, a necessary step in the fight against wind turbines, members said.
“We’re way behind the eight ball on this,” Ryan said. “We’ve missed it.”
Councillors and staff disagreed as to the form’s validity, with Chief Administrative Officer Brad Knight saying that he and Mayor Bernie MacLellan felt the form wasn’t the appropriate way for council to voice any concerns it might have.
“It’s an excellent place to do it. It’s the best place to do it,” Jean Melady said.
Members also said that they wanted councillors to adopt a 10-point action plan proposed by the group’s lawyer Kristi Ross that covers issues from property values to health and safety. The issue will be addressed by McGrath and Fisher’s notice of motion on April 2.
At the meeting, however, Knight said that some of the 10 points will be covered in the proposed road user agreement, but nothing pertaining to health and safety, simply rules surrounding the municipality’s roads.
MacLellan said that health and safety concerns could not be part of anything council approves because of the Green Energy Act and its parameters.
Ryan, however, was not impressed with MacLellan’s negativity and said he’d like every councillor to be able to think for himself.
“It’s not your job to convince council why we can’t do it,” Ryan told MacLellan. “We need councillors to do their jobs.
“Council is playing games with our lives.”
MacLellan said that if there was going to be an agreement in place that would be directed at all of industry, not just wind turbine companies, it would instruct potential businesses that they would be responsible for any losses residents take that could be connected to the business, whether it be a drop in property values, adverse health effects, a rise in sound levels, etc.
MacLellan, however, was concerned with the effect that would take on the municipality’s efforts to attract business.
“I’m afraid of driving business away from Huron East with this,” MacLellan said.
Knight said that if such an agreement were to be enacted, the onus would be on the resident to prove the harm and that the municipality wouldn’t get involved, which confused some councillors.
Councillor Nathan Marshall asked why council would be getting involved if the agreement would essentially be between an industry and a resident, with council never getting involved again.
Both notices of motion are required, by law, to be addressed at council’s next meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday, April 2 at 7 p.m. at Huron East town hall in Seaforth.
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