GASPEREAU – Gaspereau-area residents are voicing concerns over proposed new regulations for large-scale wind turbines in Kings County.
“It seems council is hell bent on getting us wind turbines and I want to know why,” said one woman who attended an April 23 meeting in Gaspereau.
About 100 people filled the Gaspereau hall for a meeting that discussed proposed regulations for future large-scale wind turbines in Kings County. A similar meeting was held in Halls Harbour the night before.
The county’s planning supervisor, Ben Sivak, and planner Ian Watson made a presentation as part of the Kings 2050 regional planning project at the sessions. A new land use bylaw and municipal planning strategy has been drafted to address wind turbine regulations. The draft proposal includes new rural mixed use and resource priority zones, where large-scale wind turbines could be considered.
Watson said the planning department has heard a lot of opinions on the subject of wind and solar energy. He says citizens seem to want a “flexible” approach to small-scale projects, a more cautious approach to medium-scale and a cautious approach to large-scale industrial proposals.
The main question Watson receives is how cloase a wind turbine could be located to a house. The county, he says, is looking at a tiered system.
Under the proposal, large-scale turbines 170 feet or taller must be at least one kilometre from a residence, with a one- to two-kilometre setback to ensure that the sound level threshold did not exceed 37 decibels “day, evening and night.” A development agreement would also be required.
Turbines would be allowed as-of-right in those zones when the setback is more than two kilometres. Watson said this distance was chosen because two kilometres more than met sound modeling thresholds in every case he found in Nova Scotia.
The municipality would also require decommissioning plans the turbine or landowner would be responsible for.
Each large-scale wind turbine could generate $11,000 per year in property tax revenue for the municipality.
Residents against the plan
Black River Road resident Nancy Denton-Peck said the proposal isn’t enough. She says all the planners did was add 300 metres to the setback in the municipality’s former wind turbine bylaw, which was repealed in 2012.
Watson pointed out they had also added sound modeling.
“Why wouldn’t you just be safe?” one man asked. “You’d probably take care of a lot of people just getting out of the 1,000 to 2,000 (metre) game.”
One woman pointed out large-scale wind turbines could potentially go “anywhere and everywhere” in the new zones.
Black River Road resident Warren Peck suggested making the setback 2,500 metres, as residents on the North Mountain called for in an earlier petition. He says this would leave three areas in the southwest quadrant of the municipality where an industrial park for large-scale wind turbines could be sited.
This approach would “ensure protection for rural property owners,” he said, and would remove the requirement for sound modeling, eliminate the need for development agreements, better protect flight paths of migratory birds, preserve Bay of Fundy views, avoid negative impacts on property values and eliminate interference to 14 Wing Greenwood flight paths.
Several residents expressed support for Peck’s proposal.
“The point has definitely been taken,” Sivak said. “We’re taking all these comments seriously and will make updates to the next draft.”
He said the county’s planning advisory committee has already asked for mapping to illustrate what the 2.5 km setback would look like.
Peck said we should be approaching the topic in terms of maximum setbacks, not minimums.
“I don’t think you got the balance right but I’m glad to hear you’re considering what we’re saying,” Peck told the planners.
“There’s a sweet spot and we’re trying to find it,” Watsons said. “I thought we were getting closer to it but obviously we need more review.”
The next draft of proposed Kings 2050 land use regulations is expected to be available to county council and the public by July.