Kincardine council is the first to officially pledge support and funds toward a proposed municipal coalition to draft and defend a noise nuisance bylaw regulating industrial wind turbines.
The decision follows a presentation at the Jan. 9 council meeting from North Perth Councillor Warren Howard on behalf of a working group of local anti-wind activists and representatives from at least 21 municipalities.
The group proposes a coalition of municipalities to share the cost to draft a noise nuisance bylaw targeting wind turbines and to defend the bylaw in court against expected challenges from wind companies and the Ontario government.
The proposal relies on the legal opinion of a lawyer hired by local anti-wind group HALT, which says that powers in the Municipal Act related to “health, safety and well-being of persons” and to regulate “public nuisances” are unaffected by Ontario’s controversial Green Energy Act (GEA), which strips municipal zoning and planning powers related to renewable energy projects and has paved the way for dozens of large wind projects across the province.
Drafting a generic bylaw that could be used in most municipalities will cost between $30,000 and $50,000, and another $250,000 to defend in court, according to the plan presented to council.
Councillors were divided on the path forward after the presentation and again on Jan.15, failing to pass three separate motion, with some councillors wanting staff to seek legal counsel, while others were ready to commit up to $50,000.
But at the Jan. 22, council passed a motion from each camp.
The first, brought forward by Councillor Ken Craig, directed Chief Administrative Officer Murray Clarke to seek legal counsel on how the proposed noise bylaw might work and what liability it might expose the municipality to. That motion passed easily.
The second came from Councillor Jacqueline Faubert and declared the municipality’s support “in principle and in practice” for the coalition and the proposed plan to draft the bylaw and defend it in court.
The motion went further, pledging $30,000 over two years to the coalition, with the caveat the money won’t be handed over until “an acceptable threshold for membership funding is achieved,” a memorandum of understanding is signed between partner municipalities, and the decision-making and administrative structures established.
Craig expressed concern council was straying from normal procedure, adopting a motion before receiving advice from staff or legal counsel.
“I have no desire whatsoever to be a part of the coalition until we have some legal advice on what it means,” Craig said.
Councillor Maureen Couture agreed they should wait to hear what the lawyer had to say.
Councillor Ron Coristine – who had previously described the proposal as a “blind date” – was convinced to offer his support by the accountability and governance measures tied to the $30,000 pledge.
He requested Faubert’s motion be amended to include a communication protocol between member municipalities and those doing the organizing on behalf of the coalition before funds are handed over.
The motion passed with the amendment with Craig, Couture and Mayor Larry Kraemer voting in the minority.
Council expects a report back from the CAO’s meeting with legal counsel by Feb. 19.
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