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Council asks staff to look at windmill setbacks

SYDNEY – The Cape Breton Regional Municipality is asking staff to take a look at setbacks that are in place governing wind turbines in the municipality, in response to concerns raised by a councillor.

Dist. 11 Coun. Lowell Cormier had asked that the issue be placed on the agenda of the receive CBRM council meeting, looking for a discussion on what he described as “lean setback distance” in the municipality, adding that he intended to make a motion asking that a staff issue paper be prepared, including a comparative study of other jurisdictions.

Currently, the setback for wind turbines is 575 feet from a dwelling, for a turbine up to 250-feet in height, Cormier noted, and then a foot-by-foot increase. He added that, in the case of a proposed wind development in New Victoria, a 300-foot turbine would have to be 625 feet away from the nearest dwelling, or about 190 metres.

“We don’t have any reference to land parcels that are not yet developed,” Cormier said. “One large parcel of land is as close as 100 metres to this proposed windmill. This renders this property virtually useless.”

Cormier noted he know a property owner who had been planning on leaving the land to be developed for his grandchildren.

“He is dismayed that we could issue a permit … that our setbacks don’t include any provisions to take care of undeveloped properties,” he said. “How would any one of us react to that if it was our land?”

At an open house, the wind development proponents handled a number of questions focused mostly on flicker and noise, Cormier said.

“In Halifax, their setbacks is one kilometre, they’ve created specific zones where windmills can go and specific zone where they can’t go,” he said.

“I think our setbacks are meagre.”

Cormier stressed he wasn’t pointing any fingers at the CBRM planning department or previous councils, saying there was extensive public consultation prior to the setbacks coming into effect in 2005.

“All I’m requesting is that we do further study,” he said.

Council voted in favour of asking staff to prepare the issue paper.