The Municipality of Huron East has declared itself an unwilling host to industrial wind turbines, but, says Mayor Bernie MacLellan, that’s about as far as council can go.
At Huron East Council’s April 2 meeting, dozens of anti-wind turbine protestors were present to hear council’s decision, but were disappointed to hear that proposed requirements between the municipality and wind developers are not a move that could be legally made.
The way council approached the issue, based on advice from two different lawyers, which was reviewed in closed session at the beginning of the meeting, was to raise a motion from Feb. 21, 2012, that had been defeated.
The motion, MacLellan said, was essentially to do the same thing as some councillors wanted to do at the April 2 meeting, to authorize an agreement between the municipality and wind turbine developers that would make the developers financially liable for changes in property values, increases in noise levels and adverse health effects.
Legally, Huron East had to revisit the Feb. 21, 2012 motion, rather than bringing up a new motion. In order to raise a defeated motion for discussion once again, a two-thirds majority is required, which was crucial when it was time to vote.
In a recorded vote, seven councillors voted to bring back the issue, while four councillors voted against it; so while a simple majority was achieved, the vote came one vote short of a two-thirds majority, therefore defeating the motion.
MacLellan explained that in the legal advice received by council, two different lawyers stated that the municipality “wouldn’t have a leg to stand on” if it were to enact a bylaw requiring wind turbine companies to pay the aforementioned damages.
After the vote was taken, MacLellan explained to Huron East Against Turbines (HEAT) founder Gerry Ryan, and his dozens of supporters, why council voted the way that it did.
He said that while council couldn’t enter into a legal agreement with any developer, it was the municipality’s hope that perhaps a gentlemen’s conversation could take place where council could get to the bottom of some of its, as well as HEAT’s, concerns.
“We can sit down and ask for answers, because we want answers too,” MacLellan said. “Can we ask questions about property values and health issues? Yes. Do we have a legal foot to stand on? Absolutely not.”
MacLellan said that according to legal advice received by the municipality, such requirements would not be within the municipality’s jurisdiction, because the Green Energy Act is provincial legislation.
In addition, he said, the legal advice stated that in the rare occurrence that such an arrangement has been challenged by the province, defending its legislation, the municipality has not only lost the case and had to pay its legal costs, but has had to pay the province’s legal costs as well. All of those factors, MacLellan said, created a situation that could potentially cost the taxpayers of Huron East a large amount of money.
“I don’t care,” said Ryan, “but I’m only speaking personally.
“When the turbines go up, the cost for me and my family is everything. So don’t be looking for sympathy from this group of people.”
While the motion to reconsider an agreement between the municipality and wind turbine developers failed to receive a two-thirds majority vote, the first vote on a motion to declare the municipality as an unwilling host to wind turbines passed unanimously.
A letter explaining the municipality’s position has already been sent to the Ontario Premier and the Ministry of the Environment.
The term “unwilling host” to wind turbines originated from Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s throne speech in which she stated that only willing host communities should become home to wind turbines.
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