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Wellington North council opens up turbine debate

Wellington North council is prepared to open up the debate on wind turbines in the township.

Councillor Sherry Burke said the issue has attracted interest from local residents, with her receiving several calls since a June 28 Advertiser article revealed plans for a large turbine project near Conn and stretching into neighbouring Southgate.

The article was based on a presentation by Gabriel Durany, project manager with Renewable Energy Systems Canada Inc. (RES), to the township’s economic development committee and several councillors.

It was the first time the plan has been made public in Wellington North, despite RES having met with economic development officials about five times.

Though specific details about the plan were not discussed at the economic development level, Durany said two thirds of the project’s turbines would be erected in Southgate and one third in Wellington North.

Further inquiries by the Advertiser revealed some 40 turbines could be located in Southgate with an estimated 20 destined for Wellington North.

Durany made it clear the company has signed several landowners to options for turbine contracts. The company has yet to receive Ontario Power Authority approvals to move ahead with the project.

Burke presented a motion to declare the township “not a willing host” and agreed it should come to council at its Sept. 9 meeting. The motion was deferred to the economic development committee for further discussion before it comes back to council.

Council also deferred approving resolutions from five other Ontario municipalities calling for “not-a-willing-host” status, including one from neighbouring Town of Minto.

Mayor Ray Tout said even if the township decides to declare itself an unwilling host, the move will have little effect on any final decisions about where turbines can be erected.

The provincial government has jurisdiction over placement, despite a recent announcement by Premier Kathleen Wynne that “conveyed the government’s desire to limit Industrial Wind Turbine (IWT) projects to communities that are willing hosts,” Burke said in her motion.

“The council for the Township of Wellington North applauds the position taken by the premier and the government,” the motion stated.

“The municipality, accordingly, supports the position taken by the Town of Minto, Township of Centre Wellington, Wellington County and a number of other rural municipalities, that the province should impose a moratorium on the approval of wind energy projects until clear evidence is provided ruling out health impacts.”

The federal government is undertaking a health study with findings expected to be released some time next year.

“Therefore council for the Township of Wellington North has received input from its residents that they are not ‘a willing host’ of IWT in Wellington North,” states the motion as its stands today.

Burke said she set the Sept. 9 deadline for a council decision, “so we can have further discussion … so council can have more feedback from residents.”

Tout, who also sits on Wellington County council, has seen a similar discussion at the upper tier level. County council recently approved a motion to support lower tiers that pass “not-willing-host” resolutions, but fell short of approving a similar resolution for the entire county.

The county has also called on the province to declare a moratorium on turbines until possible health risks are known.

“If council did support saying you’re not a willing host, we’re not saying we have full control,” Tout said, referring to any final decisions coming from the provincial government.

“There’s pros and cons, (we need) to be a little more educated and just remember we’re not in control here.”

Councillor Dan Yake acknowledged he is concerned “not-willing-host” resolutions have previously been approved by councils without council taking its own stand on the issue.

He agreed to defer the five resolutions until more discussion takes place locally within Wellington North.

July 19, 2013