County staff is recommending that council decline an invitation to join a coalition in a novel attempt by municipalities to control the development of industrial wind turbines in Ontario.
Since the Green Energy Act was made law in 2009—municipalities have largely been stripped of the authority to regulate where and how many of these turbines could be erected in their communities. Developers are required to consult with municipalities but this has proven to be a largely futile exercise— developers mutter vague assurances, while the municipality has little recourse or ability to bind the developer by way of a commitment.
Warren Howard, a councillor from North Perth, came to PrinceEdwardCounty with a plan to wrest back some of that control from the province. His proposal is to form a coalition of jurisdictions to develop a nighttime noise bylaw. Specifically the bylaw would ban noise in a rural area during prescribed overnight times.
The Green Energy Act prevents municipalities from explicitly enacting bylaws that block development of industrial wind turbines. Therefore, the proposed bylaw would seek to regulate turbine operation rather than block it. The effect would be to discourage some developers, and to compel others to negotiate seriously with the municipality.
It is a fresh approach, and one that seemed grounded in the fact that municipalities retain authority over public health, safety, public nuisances, noise, vibration, odour and dust. Howard was looking for $30,000 from the municipality to join a coalition to develop, draft and test such a bylaw. Council sent the file to its Community Development department for advice.
Neil Carbone, the County’s Community Development chief, is skeptical Howard’s approach will work.
“Past multi-municipal approaches, such as declaring ourselves unwilling hosts, did little to gain the attention of the province and was unsuccessful in shaping or changing provincial policy on industrial wind turbines.”
He suggests this latest attempt may also falter. But more worrisome for Carbone is the cost. He believes estimates to develop and test the proposed bylaw are too low—given the experience of individuals and groups in this community in legal battles.
“The organizations fighting to stop the establishment of industrial wind turbines at Ostrander Point,regardless of success, will expend at least $335,000,” observes Carbone.
Carbone worries the County could be dragged into a financial sinkhole, without assurances that the bylaw would work.
He suggests a developer may simply choose to pay the fine associated with the proposed noise bylaw as a cost of doing business, having “little or no effect on the regulation of the industry.”
Carbone notes that since Howard made his presentation to County council, he has persuaded six municipalities to join his coalition. Three other municipalities continue to deliberate their participation.
He suggests the County take a wait and see approach. If Warren Howard’s coalition succeeds in giving municipalities more sway, the County can simply adopt it later, reasons Carbone.
But can the County really sit on the sidelines as other municipalities do the heavy lifting needed to control the incursion of industrial wind turbines in their communities?
Orville Walsh, past chair of CCSAGE, says no, it cannot.
“The report suggests that we let others do it first,” observed Walsh. “That isn’t the County way. On this and other issues we have been leaders, not followers.”
He also rejects the emphasis Carbone’s report puts on potential costs.
“The opportunity to protect the health and amenity of residents in areas threatened by excessive nighttime noise does not appear to have been given sufficient weight,” said Walsh.
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