Huron East Council is awaiting some last minute changes to its municipal consultation form for the St. Columban wind energy project before it can be submitted.
At the June 4 meeting, several councillors thought the form needed some “stronger language” in some areas to show that council strongly disagreed with some aspects of the plan.
Chief Administrative Officer Brad Knight said that while members of Huron East Against Turbines (HEAT) were critical of council for waiting so long to submit its consultation form, he was pleased that council took this route. He said waiting gave council the chance to draft its road user agreement and learn from recent turbine cases before submitting its thoughts on the St. Columban project.
The proposed consultation form focuses on three main areas. The first area is the emergency management plans and safety protocols. Knight explained that this area is a continued criticism of the project’s proposed location of the turbine entitled T9, which council sees as a potential sight hazard to drivers at the intersection. Knight added that the T9 turbine has been much discussed by critics of the project, as it is in such a precise location that it cannot be moved, even by just a few metres, or it would violate setback regulations of 550 metres.
“T9 is just a poor location,” Knight said, adding that it will be a visual distraction for drivers. “We can’t suggest an alternative site, because there are setback issues.”
The second point council has chosen to focus on is the lack of consideration that has been given to the historic hamlet of Cranbrook.
A transmission line associated with the project is proposed to run straight through the hamlet, jeopardizing heritage structures throughout the community.
It was with the transmission line that Seaforth Councillor Nathan Marshall took issue, saying that council’s criticism needs to come across with stronger language than is suggested in Knight’s report.
Earlier in the process, council had suggested running the transmission line along McDonald Line, which would not disrupt a settlement like Cranbrook. There would only be an issue with a provincially-protected wetland near Hwy. 86 in the Grey Ward.
The third area council is focusing on relates to noise and monitoring associated with the wind turbines, which is handled through the Ministry of the Environment.
Mayor Bernie MacLellan asked about vacant lots near wind turbines. He wondered aloud if someone submitted a building permit on a vacant lot within the 500-metre setback area of a proposed turbine, with the intention to build a home, would stop production of that specific turbine.
Knight, however, disagreed, saying it was his understanding that was not the case.
Addressing some of HEAT’s concerns about the lack of information in council’s consultation form, Knight defended council’s submission, saying that he thought it would be better to be specific about a handful of legitimate concerns, rather than throwing everything onto the form to see what stuck.
He was also unsure as to what the group was asking for when it came to sound studies. He said a lot of questions remain unanswered, for instance, if a sound study was to take place, would an individual study have to be conducted for every turbine? That would drive the cost up substantially, he said.
MacLellan, however, disagreed, saying that he didn’t see the harm in asking for a baseline sound study in the consultation form.
Several councillors agreed with MacLellan saying that a sound study comment should be included on the form.
“I would like to have as many background levels as we can,” said Councillor Andy Flowers, saying that it couldn’t hurt the municipality, only help.
Knight also cautioned councillors about overloading the proposed road user agreement with issues. He said the agreement should only deal with issues related to transportation, and adding in other issues like sound would muddy the waters of the agreement.
The agreement was up for council’s approval at the meeting, but with several issues still to be finalized, councillors said that staff could work to mitigate their issues with the form and communicate with councillors through e-mail so the form is ready to be passed and submitted at the June 18 meeting.
Knight said that while he was glad council had waited so long to submit its form, he didn’t think council should wait much longer. The consultation period runs between four and six months, Knight said, and council was right in that six-month range on June 4.
MacLellan said that it was essentially just two paragraphs that were being altered, so it shouldn’t take too long.
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