Vulcan County council carried first reading of its proposed new land-use bylaw (LUB), which has been in the works for several years.
And provisions regarding wind farms featured during council’s discussions Jan. 27.
Following the Dec. 16 public hearing, the land-use bylaw committee, which includes two councillors, reviewed the document and made some changes to the proposed LUB, said Ryan Dyck, a planner with the Oldman River Regional Services Commission.
Dyck noted that setbacks to dwelling units from a turbine, situated within a wind farm project, were increased to a minimum distance of 300 metres, and setbacks to residents from a turbine outside a wind farm project were reintroduced, being set at a minimum distance of 800 metres.
“I think what we have here represents a balance, a response to landowner concerns,” said Dyck, adding the wind power section in the land-use bylaw provides information on the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) rules as well as setting out the County’s own rules.
Dyck noted the sound requirement in the existing draft was set at 45 decibels.
The particular section of the draft land-use bylaw covering noise levels from wind-energy conversion systems (WECS) reads: “At no time shall the cumulative modelled sound level of a multi-WECS measured at the wind farm project boundary (including all titled parcels participating in the project) exceed 45dBa unless an easement, as approved by the Development Authority, is agreed to by the affected land owner and registered on the affected title.”
Dyck said there wasn’t much attention paid to that provision when the draft LUB was circulated.
Coun. Michael Monner expressed concerned about the sound levels.
“For me, you purchase a property and you have the quiet enjoyment … and somebody else comes in and disturbs that,” said Monner. “I feel it’s an affront to our rights.”
Monner said the 45-decibel requirement should be reduced, even with an 800-metre setback.
“I would rather on a little tighter sound level than just going with the standard norm,” he said.
Dyck noted the AUC sets a daytime decibel level as well as a lower nighttime decibel level, but cautioned against getting too technical in the land-use bylaw.
“I would leery about getting into too much detail with this because I think it implies that a, we understand it better than maybe we do and b, that there’s this redundancy that we’re dealing with the same matter,” said Dyck.
Reeve Jason Schneider said council needs to come up with a standard that’s “fair across the board.”
The consensus of council was to change the decibel level to 40.
Coun. Shane Cockwill, who chairs the County’s planning commission, said the overwhelming feedback he received was a request to maintain the setback standards.
“It addresses some reasonable concerns, and so I appreciate that the previous standard was maintained,” said Cockwill.
Schneider said he “likes what we’ve got” in the new land-use bylaw regarding wind farm projects.
“My initial argument was that I want this new bylaw to be very clear so that we weren’t giving a false impression to anybody that the County was able to overrule the Alberta Utilities Commission,” said the reeve.
Anne Erickson, the County’s manager of development services, said she appreciates the value of having the setbacks in place, so that those standards can be passed along to potential developers.
Coun. Doug Logan, who remotely attended the Jan. 27 council meeting, declared a pecuniary interest and did not participate in the discussion or vote on the first reading of the land-use bylaw.
Another public hearing on the land-use bylaw takes place on Feb. 10, after which council could consider giving the bylaw second and third readings.