CENTRAL HURON – Options on how Huron County’s land use planning document can be changed to give the Municipality of Central Huron greater control on renewable energy development on its agricultural land are being drafted for presentation to council next week.
Once council settles on an option, its lawyer, Valerie M’Garry, a private practice lawyer from Delaware, Ont., will prepare a list of issues that will be dealt with in the legal appeal of Huron County’s land use planning document.
Planner Allan Ramsey, of Allan Ramsey Planning Associates, told Central Huron’s committee of the whole this week that options include: prescriptive wording in the county’s official plan related to the development of renewable energy facilities, or extracting policies on renewable energy from the county’s official plan and inserting them into the local official plans of the nine lower-tier municipalities, which would be able to develop their own wording to suit local needs.
“In those two extremes, there’s a bunch of different options that we could consider,” he said. One of those other options is wording in the county’s official plan on renewable energy development specifically in Central Huron.
When the Green Energy and Economic Act was passed by the provincial government in 2009, creating the Feed-In Tariff (FIT) program, most of the planning control like setbacks and sound control was removed from the Planning Act and from the purview of municipal governments.
Ramsey said the host municipality can still make its expectations known to potential renewable energy developers in the official plan. For example, he said that while the minimum setback for wind turbines is 550 metres, the official plan could provide for a greater setback.
“We can essentially say ‘if you want to play ball in this jurisdiction, then these are the rules we expect you to follow’,” Ramsey said, noting it won’t stop a developer from choosing to ignore the municipality’s expectations and following the provincial legislation. “But what is does is it clearly makes it know what you as a host are expecting.”
Coun. Brian Barnim said Central Huron is in a unique position when compared to its neighbours because while a wind energy developer has signed lease options with numerous landowners, there are no contracts for development. In that case, the developer will need municipal government support in order for its application for renewable energy approval to earn extra points, according to revised rules for the Feed-In Tariff program.
“Instead of painting the whole county with something, make it specific to what we’re doing,” he said, in support of wording in the county’s official plan.
Coun. Burkhart Metzger supported the option that is a “really skinny reference in the county official plan and then allowing the municipal official plans to speak to that.”
He said it’s an option that should be acceptable to the county because it wouldn’t involve them.
Coun. Alex Westerhout wanted the chosen option to make reference to Central Huron’s resolution that it is not a willing host of wind energy developments and address siting beyond the established 550 m that he said is “pretty questionable in my mind,” migration routes of birds that visit the Hullett Wildlife Area and effect on bats.
He said wind energy development he’s seen in Germany, Scotland and Holland “certainly seems way different than here where they blanket the countryside and totally surround houses.”
The options are expected to be presented to Central Huron Council on Sept. 17.
The Ontario Municipal Board has agreed to give the municipality until Sept. 27 to file its issues list in its appeal of clauses related to renewable energy and commercial water taking in the county’s amended official plan. Lawyers will exchange witness statements and file them with the board by Oct. 31, with replies to witness statements exchanged and filed with the Board by Nov. 29. A hearing could be scheduled after that, unless the parties reach a resolution.
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