SYDNEY – The Cape Breton Regional Municipality is looking for clarification from the province on the jurisdictional authority over wind farm development.
Both the province and the municipality through legislation have control to regulate wind turbines. The CBRM issues the development permit while the province is in charge of issuing the necessary permits for construction and operation of the turbines.
At a council meeting Tuesday, there were councillors who felt it should solely be a provincial responsibility since most complaints from residents deal with environmental and health issues, and municipalities aren’t equipped to handle those problems.
“The residents should be lobbying the MLAs about this because we don’t have any authority or jurisdiction aside from setting the guidelines for the setbacks (from houses),” Dist. 3 Coun. Mae Rowe said.
The current setback established by the CBRM in 2006 was a minimum of 575 feet, or 175 metres. The setback increases by one foot for every extra foot in height to a turbine greater than 250 feet in height.
A group from Groves Point will make a presentation to council at its monthly meeting Tuesday.
The Hillside Boularderie and Area Concerned Citizens Group wants council to revisit the proposal by Halifax-based Natural Forces Wind Inc. to erect two wind turbines in Hillside Boularderie, bordering on the community of Groves Point.
The project has already been given a development permit by CBRM, and is now waiting for the province to approve its environmental assessment.
Residents are concerned about the long-term health effects and the visual impact it will have on the rural community.
CBRM’s acting director of planning Malcolm Gillis said the wind turbine setback in this case is 3,300 feet, or just over one kilometre from the nearest property.
The setback proposed by the wind farm proponent is nearly six times the minimum distance allowed by the municipality.
Gillis pointed to examples of the first two wind turbines erected in the CBRM at the former No. 26 colliery in Glace Bay in 2005 and in the community of Port Caledonia later that summer. The turbines were a distance of 940 feet and 670 feet, respectively, from the nearest home.
He said if the setback had been extended to a minimum of 3,300 feet, the Glace Bay turbine would encompass about 300 buildings within that range. In the case of Port Caledonia, approximately 65 buildings would fall within the same radius.
Eight years after construction, Gillis said there hasn’t been one official complaint filed with the municipality about either wind turbine.
If council was to appease residents in Groves Point by extending the setback by more than 3,300 feet, it would be a signal to the industry it’s not welcome in the CBRM, Gillis said.
Mayor Cecil Clarke said there isn’t an overwhelming reason for the municipality to get involved in the debate over environmental or health concerns arising from wind turbine development.
“If (the province) wants to override any municipal decision about offsets they have the prerogative, so again, it’s just going to go back to them that we dealt with it as a matter of reasonability,” he said.
“However, I don’t believe that it’s very good in terms of precedence setting for this council to make decisions that don’t rest with our authority. We did not authorize the project to begin with.”
Natural Forces received Community Feed-in Tariff Program approval for the development of the Hillside Boularderie community wind farm.
The provincial government offers the program to communities to get them involved with sustainable energy. It allows for Natural Forces to produce electricity it can then sell back to the power grid.