PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY – Strength in numbers could provide municipalities with protection against unwanted developments including wind farms.
Warren Howard, a councillor from North Perth (Listowell) in southwestern Ontario appeared in front of Prince Edward County’s committee of the whole to determine if there was any interest in joining a municipal coalition to establish a noise regulation bylaw.
Howard told the committee a generic bylaw used by a number of municipalities could quite likely help stop unwanted development in Ontario communities.
“A coalition would be a much better way of doing it, because you can be 99.9 per cent sure that if a municipality tried to stop a wind development using a noise bylaw, the developer would challenge it in court,” he said. “If we had 10 municipalities in the coalition, there’s no court that is going to hear the same thing 10 times and I would imagine the first decision would be binding.”
Howard said a bylaw would need to be developed in “good faith” and couldn’t be established to target one type of development – namely the erection of wind turbines or to simply frustrate provincial initiatives. He said legal opinion suggests a noise bylaw could be developed using the concept of “quiet nights” for rural areas, prohibiting clearly audible sounds. He said general exemptions could be provided for activities such as specified farming practices, festivals and emergency vehicles.
Howard said the Green Energy Act (GEA) overrides municipal matters in planning and zoning but not the enforcement of bylaws such as noise control.
While bylaws cannot be created to completely block out provincial initiatives everywhere in a municipality, Howard said a court ruling regarding a wind development in Wainfeet, Ontario, suggests municipalities have the right to enact bylaws which protect the health and safety of residents.
“The wind company submitted that the bylaw should be declared of no force or effect pursuant to Section 14 (2) of the Municipal Act 2001 because it frustrates the purpose of the GEA and that therefore a conflict exists,” Howard told the committee.
“I am not prepared to go that far. The Municipal Act clearly contains provisions to allow for nuisance and noise as well as health and safety matters.”
Coun. Brian Marisett told Howard “Prince Edward County has dealt with noise issues many times and it’s always controversial and I don’t know what level of noise you can monitor.”
Howard said the bylaw would deal only with clearly audible sounds “because it’s hard to determine what level of noise is harmful and scientists can’t even agree on that yet.”
Howard estimates it will cost between $30,000 and $50,000 to draft a generic bylaw and another estimated $250,000 in court costs once the province and wind companies challenge it.
He said Kincardine has committed $30,000 to the coalition and municipalities including Huron, Lambton and Saugeen Shores are in the budget process now.
Howard said the coalition would like to get started this spring and the committee referred the matter to staff for feedback to be presented in May.
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