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Grey County declares itself an ‘unwilling host’ for industrial wind turbines

Following in the footsteps of seven of its nine municipalities, Grey County has officially declared itself an unwilling host for industrial wind turbines.

West Grey Deputy-mayor John Bell introduced the motion at a meeting Tuesday, saying it will provide “clarity for the electorate” on the county’s position on turbines and back the rural councils that have passed the resolutions.

“I think it’s Grey County’s prerogative to support the lower tiers in that endeavour,” he said before the vote.

The “not a willing host” movement began after Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, whose Liberal Party brought in the Green Energy Act, said in a Throne Speech in 2013 that the province would no longer force wind turbine developments on municipalities that don’t want them.

Ontario’s energy ministry announced in 2013 new rules that require wind turbine developers to work with municipalities before applying for approval from the Ontario Power Authority.

Developments with municipal support would be given top priority, Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli has said, while those without would stand little chance of receiving the green light. He said municipalities would not be given full veto power over turbine developments.

The number of municipal councils that have declared their communities unwilling hosts for turbines reached 82 in April when Southgate added its name to the list in an effort to block a proposed 56-turbine project in the former Proton Township.

Meaford, The Blue Mountains, Grey Highlands, West Grey, Chatsworth and Georgian Bluffs have also made the declaration. Only the two urban municipalities in Grey County – Owen Sound and Hanover – have not.

Bruce County, along with each of its eight member municipalities, are also on the unwilling host list.

Grey County council shied away from making the pronouncement last July, after some councillors said the decision should be left to lower-tier municipalities. County council instead called on the province to arm municipalities with the right to veto new wind turbine projects within their boundaries.

Tuesday’s motion passed in a weighted vote of 61-18.

Only Grey Highlands Mayor Wayne Fitzgerald, Meaford Mayor Francis Richardson, Southgate Mayor and Grey County Warden Brian Milne and Southgate Deputy-mayor Norman Jack opposed it.

County council heard from staff that only lower-tier municipalities where turbines are proposed are asked for their support of a project before OPA approval is considered. The county’s motion would not carry weight.