Huron East Council is listening, but not quite ready to commit to the Municipal Coalition on Noise Regulation.
After hearing a compelling case for potential regulations that might halt the erection of wind turbines in rural areas from Warren Howard, a councillor from North Perth, at an earlier meeting, several Huron East councillors asked Howard to speak in Seaforth at their Oct. 15 meeting.
Howard confessed that he was not an expert, but having attended a number of wind turbine meetings, he told councillors that he felt he had a handle on the topic.
Before his presentation, Howard said he was happy to return to Huron East. Though he is a councillor in North Perth, he told councillors he was born in Brussels and felt a connection to the municipality.
Howard prefaced his presentation by telling councillors that the words wind turbines rarely, if ever, appear in his presentation. He said that it is important not to focus on wind turbines when attempting to create bylaws. Specifically naming wind turbines, he said, would contravene the province’s Green Energy Act.
He first told council that the Ministry of the Environment supposes that a decibel level between 41 and 51 is expected for rural areas as a base level. He said that wind turbines are expected to fit within that sound landscape. A regular night in a rural area, however, is closer to 20 or 25 decibels, he said.
“The municipalities do have power,” Howard told councillors, “but we can’t do some things.”
He said some areas the municipality is allowed to govern are the health and safety of its residents and public nuisance. If a bylaw is arrived at in good faith, he said, then it can be useful to the municipality.
The aim of the group, Howard said, was to create a “quiet nights” noise level for rural areas of the municipality. The bylaw could be enacted and exceptions could be made for specific farming practices and festivals. Such a bylaw, he said, could be enforced just as any other municipal bylaw is.
Howard told councillors that he figures drafting of such a bylaw would cost $20,000, which could be split between participating municipalities. In order to ensure that the bylaw will stand up in court, however, it will need to go through a testing process, for which there is no fixed cost.
Howard told councillors, however, that he estimates the cost to challenge the bylaw to be at least $250,000.
Councillors were concerned about the costs associated with such a bylaw, but there were also concerns about its history.
“We’ve talked about turbines, so it wouldn’t be in good faith if we know what we’re trying to do,” Councillor Nathan Marshall said. “There’s no other reason to do one, right?” Marshall asked Howard, to which he said no.
“So that’s not good faith, then is it?” Marshall responded.
Howard said there is a delicate balance that the bylaw is attempting to achieve.
“We can’t ban turbines, but we can regulate them,” Howard told councillors. “That’s where quiet nights walks that fine line.”
Several councillors said they weren’t prepared to back any kind of process until they knew the final costs associated with it.
Mayor Bernie MacLellan asked Howard to return to council when he had more information, at which time council would consider participating.
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