NORFOLK – A movement is afoot that could ultimately force wind turbine companies to shut down some units after dark.
North Perth Coun. Warren Howard is touring Ontario building support for a common bylaw that would silence turbines after dark if they produce noise that is audible to residents nearby.
“The legal advice we have is we can enforce a `quiet night’ provision,” Howard told Norfolk council Tuesday. “Yes, we’ll be challenged. But the legal advice we have is we can win.”
The Liberals’ Green Energy Act stripped municipalities of planning authority in the area of renewable energy projects several years ago.
In a recent ruling, a court said that Wainfleet Township had over-stepped its authority by trying to establish a large setback for wind turbines. However, the judge also said municipalities have the right to pass bylaws on nuisance issues that affect residents’ quality of life.
The Ministry of the Environment’s allowable noise range in rural areas is 51 decibels. Howard and his allies believe this is too high.
Ambient noise in rural areas after dark is in the range of 20 to 25 decibels. The proposed bylaw would cap allowable noise from wind turbines at 30 decibels.
Howard estimates it could cost as much as $50,000 to draft a common bylaw and $250,000 to defend it in court. Howard is on a speaking tour of municipal councils trying to raise funds for this initiative.
Howard acknowledged that one of the first questions he gets concerns noise related to farming. Normal farming practices, he said, are protected by right-to-farm legislation and are not the issue. Instead, Howard said the problem is round-the-clock noise problems created by the industrialization of the Ontario countryside through the insertion of wind turbines.
A total of 79 Ontario municipalities have declared that they are not willing hosts for the continued spread of green energy projects. Howard will visit as many as he can in search of money for a common bylaw.
Kincardine recently pledged $30,000 while the municipality of Huron-Kinross pledged $5,000. Howard is also seeking money from Norfolk. However, council voted to run the matter past the county solicitor before deciding what to do.
“Before we make any decision, we have to move cautiously,” said Port Dover Coun. John Wells.
Howard gave assurances that notions of “public nuisance” and “clearly audible” are legal concepts well established in Ontario law.
“We don’t need a scientific study to determine that barking dogs and loud stereos are a public nuisance,” Howard said. “Just so long as you pass such a bylaw in good faith, you should be all right.”
Simcoe Coun. Charlie Luke said he understood where Howard and his supporters are coming from.
“We know many of our residents in Clear Creek are not happy,” he said. “And we know residents in Port Ryerse are concerned. We are already on record as being an unwilling host community. And we have asked what else can we do? Well, here is something else we can do.”
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