VARNA – Bluewater council has voted to officially join a municipal coalition focused on crafting a noise bylaw, ostensibly to protect the municipality’s residents from wind turbines.
After a long debate at its regular meeting Feb. 3, council decided to formally participate in the Multi-Municipal Wind Turbine Working Group by officially naming Stanley East Coun. Dave Roy as Bluewater’s representative on the group and Hay West Coun. John Gillespie as his alternate.
The issue arose at council because Bluewater had attended two meetings as observers and were asked to join the group. As a result, Gillespie presented a report including recommendations to council.
He told council the group is meant to mitigate the negative impacts, namely noise, wind turbines will have on the community.
“There are a group of municipalities . . . that are moving towards trying to determine if there can be a noise bylaw that would stand the test of a legal challenge and be effective in mitigating against, at least the noise concerns raised by this industry,” Gillespie said of the group.
The recommendations in the report to council include formal participation in group – which would mean attending monthly meetings, contributing $5,000 to the noise bylaw coalition and amending the municipality’s current noise bylaw.
Roy, Gillespie and Stanley West Coun. George Irvin had previously been attending the meetings and reporting back to council.
The group, which is made up of about 20 municipalities, is focused on addressing issues arising from the installation of wind turbines in the represented municipalities.
Roy and Gillespie were also named to represent Bluewater on the Municipal Coalition on Noise Regulation.
The Bluewater Shoreline Residents Association (BSRA) registered their support for the joining of the group in a letter submitted to council.
“We strongly urge the municipality of Bluewater to draft and adopt an effective and up to date bylaw to address the noise affects that are sure to arise due to the installation of IWTs,” wrote BSRA president Keith Locking, adding the bylaw needs to be drafted by experts so it can stand up to a legal challenge. “We also are of the view that having Bluewater become part of a municipal coalition to develop a noise bylaw is a most appropriate and effective way to proceed.”
However, some members of council were opposed to joining the group, notably Deputy Mayor Paul Klopp and Hay East Coun. John Becker, which led to raucous debate.
Klopp told council he felt the group was an attempt by other municipalities, such as Kincardine, to get Bluewater and others to foot the bill for a noise bylaw. He analogized it was like trying to get his neighbour to pay for a combine.
“If Kincardine wishes to go and fight this then let them fight it,” he said.
Klopp, Becker and Mayor Bill Dowson generally declare conflicts on issues related to wind turbines, but didn’t do so when discussing the noise issue.
The lack of a declaration prompted questions from the gallery during public questions and comments.
However, chief administrative officer Steve McAuley told the gallery declaring a conflict is a personal decision by each member of council and the only recourse is to pursue the issue through the courts.
Dowson previously faced a legal case regarding his failure to declare a conflict while voting on wind turbine matters.
Klopp said he didn’t declare a conflict because he felt the issue dealt with the noise bylaw, which affects the entire municipality.
In twin recorded 8-2 votes Roy and Gillespie were named to the two committees, with Becker and Klopp opposed.
Monetary contribution discussed
The second section of Gillespie’s report dealt with the possible contribution of funds to the coalition.
The report suggested contributing $5,000 to the cause, which was moved to budget on a motion by Hensall Coun. Kay Wise.
A motion by the Municipality of Kincardine was discussed, which would see Kincardine commit to donating $15,000 a year for two years. However, the motion would see the municipality contribute nothing until an acceptable level of funding is reached. As well, the motion required a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between coalition members, including a written pledge of funding for each member.
Finally, the motion would require a plan outlining the steps to move the process forward, including administrative structures, decision making and the methods of accountability for handling funds.
Some debate focused on the amount of money to contribute, with Klopp accidentally making a motion to adopt the Kincardine resolution. Although both Irvin and Gillespie seconded the motion, Klopp withdrew the motion, indicating he was only referring to the MOU portion of the motion.
Zurich Coun. Janisse Zimmerman told council she felt council should adopt the MOU portion of motion, along with taking the money to budget.
However, Hessel told council motions can be made at budget, which McAuley agreed to, noting staff will include copies of the Kincardine motion in budget discussions.
Changes to existing bylaw?
In regards to making changes to the municipality’s existing noise bylaw, Gillespie told council the bylaw, which was last updated in 2005 did not anticipate the wind energy industry growth in the area, adding it exempts most industry.
As a result, the report suggested deleting the industrial exemption of the bylaw, with the intent of removing the exemption for wind turbines. As well, the report suggested changing the agricultural exemption in the bylaw.
However, he added the suggestion was last on the list because if the committee comes to fruition, it may not be necessary.
Becker noted he felt deleting the agricultural exemptions would be an issue, adding many farmers have large elevators setups with fans and dryers that would be affected.
“It’s complicating the whole issue,” he said.
McAuley cautioned that council should seek legal advice before changing the bylaw.
“I would recommend,” he said, “if you’re going to make any changes to this noise bylaw that we would seek some legal advice of our own.”
The potential changes were shelved until a later date.
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