An important shift in Norfolk County’s position on wind turbines could occur this week.
Simcoe Coun. Charlie Luke was impressed last week with a motion that the Township of Wainfleet forwarded to council.
The Wainfleet motion, which passed April 9, congratulated Premier Kathleen Wynne on her willingness to reconsider the province’s actions under the Green Energy Act.
The Wainfleet motion also suggested that Wynne was no longer willing to force municipalities to accept wind turbines if they don’t want them. Wainfleet council then proceeded to declare itself an unwilling host to wind turbine development.
Coun. Luke liked the resolution so much that he will table a similar motion Tuesday declaring Norfolk an unwilling host to additional wind farm development.
Luke’s motion says “Be it resolved that Norfolk County council applauds the position taken by the Premier and the Government, and that, based on the position of Norfolk County council and the input received from the community regarding (industrial wind turbines), the Province of Ontario – and specifically the Ministry of Environment – be now advised that Norfolk County is not a ‘willing host’ for industrial wind turbine projects.”
If Luke finds a seconder and the motion passes, it will be a significant departure from the county’s position on wind turbines to this point. As it stands, Norfolk council has asked the province for a moratorium on turbine development everywhere until Ontario and Ottawa produce updated studies on their potential impacts on health.
Alleged health impacts were not in the news when the county approved the 56-turbine Lake Erie Wind Farm in South Walsingham and Houghton five years ago. Since then, dozens of individuals across Ontario have come forward with complaints that the province’s 550-metre setback for turbines is insufficient to dampen their potential ill effects.
The Township of Wainfleet was rebuffed in court earlier this month when it tried to impose a two-kilometre setback on turbines within its jurisdiction.
“To me, they’re industrial,” Luke said in an interview. “I’m just getting a little concerned that we’re starting to industrialize our countryside. These wind turbines look out of place to me in Norfolk. We’re rural and have a lot of woodlots. Is this what we want our landscape to look like? I don’t.”
There is no record of Wynne explicitly stating that municipalities will have the final say on whether they host wind turbines. However, in the Liberals’ recent Throne Speech, the Wynne government said “communities must be more involved in decisions and have a voice in their future and a say in their integrated, regional development,” Andrea Arbuthnot, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Energy, said in an email Monday. “Local populations should be involved from the beginning if there is going to be a renewable energy project in their hometown.”
Arbuthnot added that “The Minister of Energy (Bob Chiarelli) is working closely with the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing (Linda Jeffrey), Minister of Rural Affairs (Jeff Leal) and the Minister of the Environment (Jim Bradley) on developing a strategy to increase local control when it comes to the siting of green energy projects.
“They are in regular discussions and options are still being considered. The group is listening carefully to municipalities, community members and renewable energy stakeholders.”
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