April 22, 2022

Perth County council to consider amendment to allow townships to nix wind turbines

County council will consider a potential official-plan amendment that could give Perth County's lower-tier municipalities the freedom to restrict or deny future proposed wind-turbine projects. | Galen Simmons | The Courier Press | Apr 21, 2022 | www.wallaceburgcourierpress.com

Perth County council will soon consider an official plan amendment that could give the county’s lower-tier municipalities the legislative tools they need to restrict or deny future proposals for wind-turbine projects.

At Thursday’s council meeting, Warren Howard, a former North Perth councillor and a member of both the Elma-Mornington Concerned Citizens group and the advocacy organization, Wind Concerns Ontario, asked councillors to consider an amendment to the county’s official plan that would give Perth County’s lower-tier councils the freedom to develop their own land-zoning rules for wind turbines.

“Perth County declared itself an unwilling host for wind turbines in 2014 – one of about 115 municipalities across Ontario – but this was a political statement because, under the Green Energy Act, council had no real authority over the projects. That changed in 2018 when (the provincial government) repealed the Green Energy Act and the clear statement was that they were restoring planning decisions to municipalities, ensuring that local voices have the final say on projects,” Howard said.

The province subsequently amended its planning act with new zoning rules for wind turbines, but Howard said the setbacks specified in those rules are “not adequate” and haven’t been reviewed by the Ontario government.

“The municipality is free to set larger setbacks than those set out by the province, so my ask today is that council update the official plan and start the process of (drafting) the zoning bylaws,” Howard said.

As renewable energy organizations like the Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-op search for new turbine sites in Southwestern Ontario, including two projects in nearby Bruce and Huron counties, Howard suggested the councils of Perth County and its lower tiers act quickly to ensure the views of area residents are heard.
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The county’s current official plan, Howard explained, encourages the development of wind turbines, citing the economic benefits for the county and the province and allowing them to be built on prime agricultural land.

“This section needs to be completely rewritten because it doesn’t reflect the views here,” Howard said. “As it’s written, it says projects can proceed with no municipal input.”

Howard recommended the county remove the current provisions for wind turbines from its official plan completely, allowing its lower tiers to develop their own zoning bylaws that could prohibit turbines on prime agricultural land, increase minimum setbacks from other land uses to offer protection from audible and low-frequency noise, and increase setbacks from property lines to protect neighbours from ice thrown from turbine blades, shadow flicker and turbine failure.

While most renewable energy advocates agree that wind turbines can be noisy and can come with some other ecological hazards, many say their relatively small footprints do not disrupt agricultural operations and offer rural landowners an opportunity for extra income through the generation of one of the cleanest forms of energy.

According to Windustry, a sustainable-energy advocacy group based in the U.S., shadow flicker – the term used to describe the shadow cast by a wind turbine’s blades as they turn – would only affect, by way of light alteration, neighbouring residents for between 20 and 100 minutes per year.
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There is also little scientific evidence to show that shadow flicker or noise from wind turbines have an impact on human health.

“I would like us to amend the official plan so it does not allow wind turbines, and (that we) do it right now,” Deputy Warden and Perth East Mayor Rhonda Ehgoetz said following Howard’s presentation. “I don’t think we want to wait until the (county’s) new official plan comes out because I think something could happen between now and then. Personally, I would like to see staff start working on that … (and) if there’s something simple and easy that we could put in there to stop them, I think that’s where we should go.

“And then if each of the municipalities need to put (zoning bylaws) in place as well, I’m hoping we can do the same thing across the board. And maybe you’re not all on that page, but I know Perth East is. Perth East does not want wind turbines.”

While Ehgoetz and Coun. Todd Kasenberg agreed with Howard and his sense of urgency, Coun. Daryl Herlick suggested the county solicit public feedback before moving ahead with any amendments.

County planning manager Sally McMullen told councillors she was grateful that Howard brought this topic to council for consideration, as provisions for wind turbines hadn’t yet been considered during the ongoing development of Perth County’s new official plan.

She asked council for time to review the current provisions and bring back recommendations for a potential amendment, possibly with the help of a consultant already working with the county on the new official plan.

“Because this hasn’t been front and centre for us, we do need time to investigate whether that is the right course of action,” McMullen said. “I would hate to rush into thinking something is low-hanging fruit and then find that we didn’t set ourselves up adequately.”

Councillors voted unanimously to have planning staff bring a report on wind turbine zoning provisions to a future council meeting.

[rest of article available at source]

URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2022/04/22/perth-county-council-to-consider-amendment-to-allow-townships-to-nix-wind-turbines/