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Proposed Renfrew area wind farms in limbo

Proposed wind turbine developments southwest of Renfrew remain in limbo after a motion to axe such projects was struck down by township council on Monday.

Two competing renewable energy companies, NextEra Energy and RES Canada, introduced proposals in March to build between 50 and 100 turbines on a mix of private and Crown land in Addington Highlands Township in the Bon Echo Park area.

There are two wards in the township – Ward 1 and Ward 2. The wind turbine development is proposed for Ward 1 in the north end of the township, and has been opposed by its two councillors Tony Fritsch and Kirby Thompson. However, councillors Helen Yanch and Bill Cox in Ward 2, along with township Reeve Henry Hogg, are in favour of the two proposed wind farms.

Council received input from permanent and seasonal residents of the township through letters, forms, faxes, and petitions, as well as a survey conducted by the group Bon Echo Area Residents Against Turbines that showed 83.3 per cent opposed to having wind farms in the community.

Proponents say the wind turbines would provide an economic boost to the area through millions of dollars in land fees as well as employment and business opportunities.

“They (the companies) are proposing a community vibrancy fund, which once the farm is up and running would be half a million dollars a year which is about equivalent of a 20-per-cent tax increase for the township,” said Hogg. “Good numbers.”

The opponents have many concerns including worries about excessive noise, property devaluation, loss of local habitat, and preserving the pristine character of the land and waters – a particular concern of cottagers.

Fritsch drafted a resolution to declare the municipality an “unwilling host” based on the fact Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has said the government will not put wind turbines in any municipality that is an unwilling host.

“(The unwilling host resolution) was rejected by council (Monday),” said Fritsch.

“However, the council also did not approve either (proposal). That’s been deferred, so really nothing (has happened).”

Fritsch stresses he’s all for industrial development – such as a factory or resort – but in a localized area, not spread across “tens of thousands of acres” located between the towns of Denbigh and Kaladar.

“The proposed turbines would be scattered across the entire Ward 1,” he said. “So you are going to have these very large steel structures protruding out of the landscape, and all the interconnecting roads and hydro lines … will be cleared through the bush.”

However, given the motion was defeated on Monday, Hogg says a wind farm project will likely go ahead at some point.

“I expect that there will be wind turbines coming this year, next year, so I just want to be positioned so we can collect some of this vibrancy fund,” said Hogg.

The council will continue the debate at the next scheduled council meeting in Flinton on July 20.