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Fight against wind turbines is about the City’s right to protect its residents’ interests, says CAO

ANETVILLE – It may seem like ‘same old, same old.’ But the fight to keep industrial wind turbines out of Manvers Township and off the Oak Ridges Moraine is also about the City of Kawartha Lakes protecting its local interests.

The Environmental Review Tribunal hearing from those opposing the Snowy Ridge wind turbine project started in Janetville on Monday and may continue into next week.

Snowy Ridge is a Capstone Infrastructure project that has received its Renewable Energy Approval (REA) from the province with plans to build five industrial turbines west of Bethany. The project area runs east from Highway 35 along Highway 7A and along Beers and Twigg roads.

Earlier in September, the Tribunal conducted a hearing opposing Capstone’s Settlers Landing project. It is proposed west of Highway 35 along Telecom and Drum Roads near Pontypool.

The Snowy Ridge tribunal is the third hearing relating to wind turbines proposed on the Oak Ridges Moraine, which is protected under provincial legislation.

Earlier this year, a hearing for wpd Canada’s approved Sumac Ridge wind farm resulted in a decision in their favour. The appellants opposing Sumac Ridge have asked for a Ministerial Review of that decision, and are awaiting the result.

Sumac Ridge is located south of Bethany, between Ballyduff and Grey Roads.

In August, an Ontario court ruled the City had no right to pass a 2014 bylaw that barred wpd Canada access to Wild Turkey Road, a trail that is primarily used for recreation. The company wants to use it to access the Sumac Ridge wind farm.

The Court ruled the City had acted in “bad faith” when council passed “an unwilling host bylaw” denying the company the use of the road. The City was ordered to pay $55,000 to wpd, an amount fixed upon and agreed to by both sides prior to the hearing.

Last week, council approved $150,000 for legal expenses to appeal the ruling.

If all three wind farms are built, Manvers Township would be home to 15 industrial wind turbines, each 46 storeys tall, with several planned for the Oak Ridges Moraine. Opponents include groups such as Manvers Wind Concerns and STORM (Save the Oak Ridges Moraine.)

Resident Ron Awde leads the opposition to Snowy Ridge through SR Opposition Corp., which he said represents the community. He said those fighting to keep industrial wind farms out of the city “are fighting a battle for the entire Province.”

Opponents of all three wind farms cite “irreversible and irreparable harm” to human health and the environment as primary concerns. They are also worried about the impact of noise and on the aquifers that provide drinking water to the area, since most residents rely on wells.

One of the key arguments is provincial legislation prohibits building anything on the moraine and wind turbines should not be exempt from that legislation.

Mr. Awde and Ward 16 Coun. Heather Stauble both told This Week that while each wind project consists of five turbines, the combined total is 15, which means a cumulative noise study is required to determine the impact of 15 turbines as a whole, not individual groups of five turbines.

On Tuesday, at the Snowy Ridge hearing CAO Ron Taylor testified as to the City’s position.

Mr. Taylor explained the City is not opposed to renewable energy (such as wind and solar farms) per se. But, the City’s objection (in Manvers) is that the moraine is not a place to put wind turbines.

The City does not agree that a provincial approval gives a wind or solar energy company the right to bypass the City’s planning and development rules.

“Development services is responsible for review of REAs, building permits and road use agreements,” Mr. Taylor said. And, while the City has approved some renewable energy projects, it is “not supportive of development in the Oak Ridges Moraine,” especially when the Province enacted legislation to protect it.

Mr. Taylor said the City’s position is that wind turbines should be located outside the moraine; the City is geographically big enough and offers other more suitable locations without all of the potential impacts.

Mr. Taylor said a site agreement for any development is required before any building permit is issued in the city. Developers are required to enter into agreements governing that development and road use.

He asked the Tribunal to require Capstone to enter a development agreement with the City, which is not required under its approval. Doing so would mean the company would have to abide by City requirements, giving some control back to the municipality.

Mr. Taylor later told This Week the City’s job “is to protect local interests and its residents”; that protection of the Moraine and its sourcewaters are also part of the City’s Official Plan.

He said that while the City may submit its concerns to the Province during an approval application, those concerns are virtually ignored.

Renewable energy companies, he said have many areas in the City where they could build, but they want sites close to existing infrastructure such as transformers so they don’t have to assume the cost of building it themselves.

Mr. Taylor said by supporting appellants at the tribunal hearings, the City is fighting to protect local interests and its right to ensure everyone plays by the development rules.

“There is a provision that allows certain exemptions for building on the moraine if necessary,” he said, “such as a hydro line or road that is in the public interest. But, these are private developers who should not be allowed to bypass development agreements and conditions when other developers cannot.

“The City’s development agreement rules apply to anyone who wants to develop, not just green energy,” Mr. Taylor said. “They should have to be subject to the same conditions as everyone else.”