Centre Wellington has joined the list of municipalities saying “no” to industrial wind turbines.
Centre Wellington Mayor Joanne Ross-Zuj however, contends the move is not new, but rather an extension of resolutions previously passed at council.
Council had been aware of the growing list of “not a willing host” municipalities for a number of months, but the issue did not officially surface at council until recently, as a result of a motion made at a previous meeting by councillor Walt Visser.
His motion stated that Centre Wellington had requested the Ontario government, through the Ministry of the Environment, issue a moratorium on wind energy projects until a health study has been completed by an independent third party.
The resolution also noted the Premier Kathleen Wynne recently conveyed the government’s desire to limit industrial wind turbine projects to communities which are willing hosts.
While the township applauds the position taken by the premier and the government, the resolution states that based on the consistent position of council for the township of Centre Wellington and the input received from the community regarding wind turbines, “the Province of Ontario and specifically the Ministry of Environment be now advised that the Township of Centre Wellington is not a ‘willing host’ for industrial wind turbines.”
Visser considered this an important issue to the citizens of his ward, though he believed it was an issue important to all residents of Centre Wellington.
And yet, even Visser agrees opinions are divided in the township.
“I was amazed how different sections of our population regarded wind turbines,” said Visser.
Near the West Garafraxa / East Garafraxa Townline, Visser said three in five people had very strong opinions on wind turbines.
“Some people had opinions strong enough to close the door in my face.”
But he said by the time he reached Anderson Street (the eastern edge of Fergus) to Jones Baseline, the ratio of people with strong opinions had dropped to one in 20 people.
“From Jones Baseline Road to Highway 6, the response was – ‘what’s the problem?’” he said.
“The problem is that people in the urban areas do not see the turbines, they don’t see the negative parts and they don’t deal with the health issues.”
He added this is also a very important issue for the anti-turbine people.
“It is not necessarily to get rid of the turbines, but to have a voice,” Visser said.
He said former premier Dalton McGuinty took that voice away from the people, and now there is an opportunity for at least some voice.
Mayor Joanne Ross-Zuj noted council had already passed a resolution requesting information regarding the turbine health impacts.
“I take resolutions very seriously at this council – and it was ignored [by the government].”
She said Centre Wellington received no information, but it did get notification that studies were being conducted. She then asked, “Why can’t we get the study results back before we proceed?”
Ross-Zuj said this motion reiterates that council wants answers to the health-related issues.
“When we get those answers, it puts us in a much better position to make an informed decision,” she said.
“With this motion, we want a halt on this until we get an answer to our questions.”
Councillor Steven VanLeeuwen agreed that it was important for council to stand behind its previous motions.
He noted the first motion asking for information on turbine health effects was actually passed before the current council term.
“Now we are bringing it back to say the current council still supports getting the information,” said VanLeeuwen.
Visser said Centre Wellington has in many situations supported this position and, “We’ve been mainly ignored.”
The township again passed a resolution requesting a moratorium on new wind energy projects until health studies are completed by an independent third party and also stating the township is not a willing host for industrial wind turbines.
Prior to the discussion, councillor Kelly Linton stepped aside from the talks. He said he has extended family who could potentially benefit.
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