GRIMSBY – A Grimsby alderman has asked town council to declare the municipality as an unwilling host for large wind turbines. Ald. Dave Kadwell presented the motion to Grimsby council at the Nov. 4 meeting. The motion asks the town to declare itself an unwilling host “due to the lack of information on long term health impacts” and because of possible reduction in property values and other implications for the town. Council as a whole was leery of providing full support for the motion, and questioned the value of adopting it.
Grimsby Mayor Bob Bentley said the town was unlikely to ever become a wind turbine site, as wind patterns over the area are not suitable for energy production. He said the region had already examined the possible health impact of their construction.
“We went through our medical officer of health and McMaster University Hospital to see whether there are any identified health impacts, and the answer, thus far, is no. However, we get comments from Health Canada if there is something new that comes along, if something may have changed, it is their responsibility to monitor it,” he said.
Mayor Bentley said the “unwilling host” debate had caused problems at the regional government. While member municipalities, such as West Lincoln and Wainfleet, have declared themselves unwilling hosts for wind power, the region as a whole has stopped short of a similar declaration. Several municipalities welcome the investment green energy has brought to the region. According to Bentley, declaring Grimsby an unwilling host could be bad for business.
“The region tried to support the ability of Wainfleet and West Lincoln to say they were unwilling hosts,” he said. “But the reasons for that were misinterpreted by some, including one of those municipalities, as saying the region is not interested in green energy.”
Ald. Kadwell said his motion was intended as a gesture of support for West Lincoln and Wainfleet. Both those municipalities are sites of large scale turbine projects, and both have declared themselves unwilling hosts. The declaration does not prevent the construction of currently approved projects, but does factor into provincial approvals for future turbine projects. Ald. Kadwell said the turbines were changing the rural landscape.
“The average height of these wind turbines is 80 to 100 metres. The ones they are proposing in West Lincoln are going to be 145 metres high, with blades 50 metres across,” he said. “Line up 13 school busses and get an idea of how high they will be. With what West Lincoln and Wainfleet are going through, I just want to support and show our neighbours we’re there, supporting them as well.”
In response to Mayor Bentley’s comments about the unsuitability of Grimsby for turbine projects, Ald. Kadwell said the future could not be predicted with such certainty. He noted offshore turbines are a possibility.
“We don’t have crystal balls. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. The reason I brought this forward was to protect us,” he said. “I don’t want anything to do with industrial wind turbines.”
Mayor Bentley suggested council could issue a motion stating they support the ability of West Lincoln and Wainfleet to declare themselves unwilling hosts with impacting potential business investment in the town.
“We don’t have any applications before us, so we have time,” he said.
Other members of council wanted to make it clear they supported other forms of green energy, aside from wind turbines.
“I believe in green energy. We have solar panels on our home,” said Ald. Joanne Johnston. ”But, we live in a democratic country, and for a municipality, they have to be willing to have turbines, otherwise they don’t have that democratic voice.”
Ald. Michelle Seaborn said Grimsby residents are concerned about wind turbines, especially in the rural south side of the town. She said the aldermen representing that area have received a number of phone calls about the issue.
“I was really pleased to be able to say that Grimsby would not get any wind turbines going in. I don’t like the fact that (West Lincoln) council really had the shackles put on them and were not able to stop the process,” she said. “But, I don’t think Grimsby can be an unwilling host if we really believe in renewable energy.”
Mayor Bentley suggested the provincial government was in a dilemma, with an obligation to provide clean, reliable energy. He suggested council refer the matter back to town staff to obtain more information before voting on Ald. Kadwell’s motion. Council accepted this suggestion, and will consider the motion again after town staff prepare an information package based on regional findings.
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