AMHERST – Halfway through its environmental assessment and set to be up and running by the end of 2015, can the wind farm being developed on the edge of Amherst be stopped?
That was one of several questions put to Keith Hunter, county warden, during Tuesday’s meeting at the Amherst Golf Club.
Hunter said the bylaw can be changed but it is impossible to do it before this project is complete.
He explained to the 120 people attending the meeting that a lot of time and effort went into developing the wind turbine bylaw for Cumberland County.
“I know it’s going to affect you in this area but we went through a very extensive consultation processes in order to find out how to develop our wind bylaw,” said Hunter. “I was told at the outset that 300 metres was ample for a setback. We settled on 500 figuring we would be well within the limit.”
The setback for the wind turbines to be build between the John Black Road and the Pumping Station Road, across from the Amherst Golf Club, will be set back at least 1,000 metres.
“Then we had some public pressure from people in the Pugwash area on the Gulf Shore, and due to public pressure we bowed and went from 500 to 600 metres,” he added. “If we go to two kilometres there’s going to be very few places in Cumberland County where you can put a wind turbine.”
Many in the crowd clapped their approval at having no wind turbines in Cumberland County.
“We made the rules because we thought they were fair, if you don’t think they’re fair you’d have to get enough of those politicians (councillors) to agree to do another assessment of the wind bylaw and I’m afraid it is too late for this one.”
Dr. Brian Ferguson lives very close, possibly the closest, to the proposed site. He attended the meeting and asked Hunter if he would stand with them in opposing the development of the proposed wind farm.
“At tops there are 200 people here tonight and I’m representing over 16,000, and I have got to say it’s not the will of the people when I just hear from 200,” said Hunter.
Ferguson said he was very disappointed in Hunter, saying there should be a vote of non-confidence in the municipality when they’re willing to sell out 200 people, adding that legal action against the municipality is not beyond the realm of possibility.
John Laforet, group spokesperson, agreed with Ferguson.
“This is 200 people but when you have 200 people involved in any political campaign you’ll win it,” said Laforet. “So if the county wants a fight and the province wants a fight we’re going to have to have a fight, but we can win that fight.”
Cumberland North Liberal MLA Terry Farrell attended the meeting and said he opposes the development of the wind farm as well.
“I’m strongly in favour of safe, renewable, clean energy, and I don’t think there’s anybody in this room who would say anything different. It’s something we need. The future of the planet depends on it,” said Farrell. “Having said that, I have chosen not to support this project in writing.
“The reason for that is I sense a very, very strong opposition to this in the community, and my opinion on what the community is does differ somewhat from the warden,” he added. “I see the community here as the people in the immediate area of the project who are affected by these turbines.”
With that said, Farrell added that people should have been more politically active when the bylaw was being written.
“If you’re unhappy with the process we should have got up off the couch then when that was happening and gone out to council and gone to your provincial legislator’s,” he said. “We’re here now saying no to something. It’s incumbent on us to work towards solutions to this.”
Bruce Cameron, executive director of Sustainable and Renewable Energy with the government of Nova Scotia, was at the meeting.
He invited people to talk to him after the meeting and talked about the process counties go through when developing bylaws.
“Kings County is the only municipality in the province that has said no to wind. Everyone else has said yes,” said Cameron.
He said counties have the full authority to determine where wind projects are sited, and says the reason for giving them that authority is so local people can make the decisions instead of decisions coming top-down from Halifax.
“When it comes down to trying to determine if there’s community support it comes down to a combination of what the municipality feels, what there has been in terms of community engagement and, also, they have to have shareholders from the local community,” said Cameron. “There’s dozens of people that have to be part of the project to keep them in compliance.”
Also, if a wind farm is more than two megawatts there has to be an environmental assessment. The proposed wind farm is six megawatts
“It (the EA) looks at all these issues that were raised this evening on a scientific basis and it comes to a determination whether this project can be sited.”
One area where the province does have jurisdiction is noise level.
“There is a blanket requirement across the province that no dwelling unit, no matter what the municipal setback is, you can’t have a noise level of more than 40 DB (decibels) in a home,” said Cameron. “That becomes a condition of every environmental assessment that’s done today. It will certainly apply to this project.”
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