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Wellington North council declares township ‘not a willing host’ for turbines

by Kris Svela

WELLINGTON NORTH - This township has joined a growing list of communities across Ontario that have passed resolutions opposing wind turbine development within their boundaries.

Council on Monday approved a resolution declaring the township “not a willing host.” It also approved three similar resolutions submitted for support from three other communities, including Minto.

Wind turbine opponents, who packed the council chambers, applauded the decision.

Since 2010 the township’s economic development committee has been in talks with a company interested in establishing a turbine project split 50-50 between Wellington North and neighbouring Southgate Township. Renewable Energy Systems Canada Inc. (RES) has been looking at the project and has met several times with the committee with plans to erect turbines in the Conn area of Wellington North.

At the Sept. 9 council meeting, the township’s business economic development manager Dale Small made a pitch to council not to pass the resolution. Small noted the recent announcement by the provincial government aimed at giving municipalities greater input into wind turbine developments failed to give municipal council’s the authority to halt projects.

Small maintained municipalities that pass not a willing host resolutions may have little say in final decisions on turbine development because the provincial government has not provided municipalities with veto powers.

Because of the uncertainty and the fact RES has yet to secure power purchase agreements Small said the company is “at least three years away from any development.”

He said the company has secured verbal contracts for turbines with about 50 landowners with “10,000 acres under control.”

Small urged council to delay passing the resolution until the province comes out with more specific regulations on turbine development. He admitted the process should involve community input.

“Community involvement is critical,” he said of concerns raised about turbines which include declining property values, absentee land owners, proper tax revenue and property building fees.

In a report to council Small said the RES plan would generate between 100 to 130 megawatts of power, cost about $285 million to put the turbines in place with approximately $75 million spent locally. The project would also generate about $215,000 in tax revenue, about $1 million in payments to landowners where turbines are located and create about 300 jobs during construction and 10 to 12 long-term jobs when the turbines are operating.

“Prior to making any decision related to Wellington North being a willing or non-willing host it is absolutely critical that public consultation take place to ensure residents’ views are considered,” Small said in concluding his report. He also called on council to create a wind advisory committee to address  local concerns and review new provincial government regulations.

Ward 4 county councillor Lynda White urged council to approve the resolution similar to one she brought to county council to consider in May.

County council fell short of declaring Wellington County a non-willing host, but approved supporting its lower tier municipalities that declare themselves unwilling hosts.

White pointed out that she knows of residents who live close to the turbine project in Mapleton outside Arthur who have found they were suffering  ill health from living close to the development. White said a federal study to determine potential health hazards from wind turbines is expected out next year and until those findings are released she cautioned against allowing more turbine development. The county councillor said 64 municipalities have passed unwilling host resolutions.

“I’m asking you to join with other municipalities in Ontario that you are not willing hosts,” she urged council.

Health concerns have already been raised by councillor Sherry Burke who has been contacted by many residents opposed to the RES project after news of it was published in an Advertiser story.

“Giant industrial wind farms have gone up without sufficient research into the impact on our health,” she said. “Information from other Ontario municipalities such as Ripley, Port Elgin and other areas of Bruce County, along with victim impact statements and case studies from these areas report residents experiencing health problems, headaches, vertigo, nausea, ear pressure, among others, not to mention the abandonment of family homes and farms.

“This should cause us to stand up and use our voice to protect residents of Wellington North,” she added. “I don’t understand the rush to embrace industrial wind farms and wind energy with hydro being produced in abundance in Ontario. In speaking with both rural and non-rural residents of Wellington North my vote will support a ‘non-willing host’ as the unknowns far outweigh the economic benefits at this time.”

Her view was shared by councillors Mark Goetz and Dan Yake.

Councillor Andy Lennox also shared the same view.

“I have had the opportunity to speak to concerned citizens on both sides of the issue,” Lennox said. “The vast majority I spoke to expressed opposition to wind turbine development.”

“I am in favour of green energy alternatives, but the current wind program leaves too many unanswered questions. I am not an expert on health effects, but I believe there is enough evidence to suggest there could be health effects. I believe we on council have an obligation to protect the interests of our citizens who may not have as much financial power as a large wind farm developer. Suppose someone does have a health issue related to the development of wind turbines in a neighbouring residence. Under the current program, those citizens are left alone in a powerless position to fight the multimillion dollar corporation for compensation. It is hard to call that justice.”

Lennox said tax revenue generated to the municipality through turbines valued at $5 million each would be about $1,500.

“Hardly seems like a level playing field with our other industrial ratepayers,” he said.

“It seems the current program of wind development is not compatible with our community, similar to how gas plants are not compatible with Oakville and Mississauga,” Lennox said.

Mayor Ray Tout said he didn’t know what the outcome of a unwilling host resolution would be, but added it would “speak for our people.”

Council approved the resolution.

September 13, 2013


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