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Central Huron an ‘unwilling host’ to turbines

Central Huron Council is adding Central Huron’s name to the growing list of Ontario municipalities that want the provincial government to acknowledge the community is an unwilling host to industrial wind turbines.

In front of a gallery of about 30 ratepayers on May 21, Central Huron Council threw its support behind passing the resolution, which is part of a grassroots effort designed to have newly anointed Premier Kathleen Wynne honour her pledge not to force turbine projects on communities that do not want them.

Though the resolution passed unanimously in a recorded vote requested by Councillor Brian Barnim, Deputy-Mayor Dave Jewitt told the gallery that he struggled with the decision given there is likely some room for wind projects within Central Huron’s boundaries.

“I struggled with this because typically I wouldn’t support an outright prohibition on anything,” said Jewitt, noting it is his understanding the provincial government is moving towards a renewed process that will allow for more input from municipalities when it comes to issues like planning.

Councillor Burkhard Metzger, a native of a town in Germany where wind projects are in the process of taking shape, said that in order for industrial wind turbine projects to be successful, there must be consultation and strategies that are followed.

“The way it is done was with little public consultation,” said Metzger.

Councillor Alison Lobb notes she struggled with the decision since she supports green energy in principle.

“I definitely have some concerns about this,” she said, adding that while she has not yet signed a lease to allow for turbines on her property, she does know people that want them. Still, Lobb agrees the Green Energy Act (GEA) is problematic.

“I do think the GEA is hugely flawed. I’ve been wavering but I guess maybe you have persuaded me,” she said.

Meanwhile, Councillor Alex Westerhout wholeheartedly supported the move. “I have no reservations about supporting this,” he said.

The motion passed in a 7-0 vote. Mayor Jim Ginn had earlier declared a conflict, and did not vote.

Earlier in the meeting, Peter Middleton, treasurer of Central Huron Against Turbines (CHAT), urged council to pass the resolution given the grassroots movement against industrial wind turbine projects continues to grow.

Middleton noted both former Premier Dalton McGuinty and Wynne pledged industrial wind turbine projects would not be forced upon unwilling communities.

And, noted Middleton, CHAT is confident the majority of Central Huron’s ratepayers do not support wind projects given a survey members conducted on a number of rural routes, including Orchard, Porter’s Hill, Fish and Game and Tipperary Lines, resulted in the collection of more than 500 signatures.

“Even we were surprised at the response to our petition,” said Middleton, noting there were also a number of ratepayers who said they wanted to sign it but did not want to offend family members or neighbours that had signed wind-energy leases.

Middleton told council the number of unwilling hosts is growing and that “you will have the overwhelming support of the residents of Central Huron” by passing an “unwilling host” resolution.

During a question period, Middleton told Councillor Brian Barnim there “were a few” ratepayers that did support wind turbine projects.