It’s been a long and winding road, but it looks like wind energy is starting to sail with approval in principle for another wind turbine project in Wellington North.
Monday’s night’s discussion held none of the controversy of previous meetings.
A Mapleton taxpayer who received permission two years ago for a private wind turbine in former Maryborough township is now looking for approval for two more turbines on another property he owns in Wellington North, west of Arthur.
Applicant Willem Roubos first came to Wellington North council over two years ago to install two windmills on his property at part of Lots 23 and 24, Concession 11 in the former Arthur township. On Monday, council held a third public meeting. Two other meetings were held in 2006.
The amendment was to rezone the agricultural property to allow two commercial wind turbines to generate electrical power that would be sold to the Ontario power grid.
Planner Mark Van Patter said a draft zoning bylaw is not provided now because more detailed information is required from Roubos about the turbine locations and related information. At the same time, he said he supports the application.
Van Patter said, “The only serious concern that I have now is with possible shadow-flicker impacts on neighbours. While it is unlikely to be a problem, I think we have a responsibility to verify this through a study …
“We need to be sure we are not making someone’s life miserable.”
Van Patter also believes the site plan should be altered to relocate the two turbines to meet the setbacks proposed for another wind energy project; the Schneider rezoning.
He noted some further elaboration on agricultural land impacts should be provided by the applicant. Once the generic regulations are established in the zoning bylaw, the amendment for Roubos will be fairly simple – just identifying turbine locations and related information.
Providing background regarding previous meetings, VanPatter said that in 2006 some neighbours believed the turbines would interfere with trumpeter swan migrations.
However contact with the Ministry of Natural Resources found they had not received official reports of them being in the area, nor would the turbines be likely to interfere with them. Further, he said, the turbine distance from the road would make it unlikely any ice would be thrown onto nearby roads.
As for concerns on the impact to property values, Van Patter explained that issue does not really fall under the planning department’s jurisdiction. He said wind turbines are a permitted use; the department’s job is to ensure it is done properly. He pointed to the county policies approved by Wellington council and the wind generation policies recently brought to Wellington North council.
Van Patter believes the applicant would benefit from a proper site plan rather that the original hand-drawn sketches provided to give council and the general public a better understanding of what is being proposed.
He also noted the township’s generic bylaw has a setback of 450 metres from neighbouring homes and 300 metres from homes on site. As a result, he recommended shifting the turbines back slightly on the property. Once that has been dealt with, a proper survey is needed to determine their exact location.
Roubos believes the current proposal meets the setback regulations, but wanted to see a positive attitude from council or an approval in principle before incurring more costs.
Wellington North Mayor Mike Broomhead pointed out there have been considerable changes in the past few years and that a site plan ensures items are in place prior to the turbines going up.
Broomhead said he had heard stories from other areas and, “It is hard to deal with items after the fact [with the wind turbines already installed].” He added that all new large projects within the township require site plans even down to four-unit infilling lot developments.
“It stays on record and there is no debate as to what was agreed to or what was not,” Broomhead said.
Nearby resident Dan Beirne asked for clarification if additional turbines would be allowed on the site.
Van Patter was uncertain if additional turbines would be viable, but on a property almost 200 acres in size, he agreed it might be possible. He noted the original application was for three of them.
When asked for his plans, Roubos was uncertain. But Van Patter added any additional towers would require the site plan to come back to council for review and approval.
Beirne asked if the acoustic tests included tests to ensure it meets regulations after the turbines are installed.
Van Patter believes that would come under the certificate of approval and a requirement before the turbines would be allowed to operate.
When Roubos commented on additional work done within the past two years, Van Patter asked the applicant to provide that information to council.
Martin Zonneveld lives directly across from the farm, and spoke at the previous meetings two years ago.
“While I’m not totally against wind turbines, I’m not particularly happy having to look at a 300 foot turbine across the road,” he said. Zonneveld asked at what point does a developer’s rights supercede that of other residents.
“When I look at the setting sun, it will be between the blades of the turbines.” He advocated placing the turbines even farther back on the property. He also questioned why Roubos made the application for the turbines to be installed on his secondary – and not his home farm.
Roubos noted that he also applied to put in turbines on his home farm in Mapleton Township back in 2006. Approval came from that council within six weeks.
Zonneveld was unaware of the other proposal.
Broomhead said he realized this has gone on for two years, but council wants to try to get things dealt with properly. He agreed that while current regulations may not eliminate the problems, “It may keep them to a minimum.”
Broomhead noted that a shadow flicker study will be part of the site plan agreement.
Safety issues also need to be considered
Though supportive of wind energy,. Wellington County’s emergency coordinator Linda Dickson says safety issues also need consideration.
In a letter to Wellington North councillors, Dickson wrote, “This office supports the use of alternative renewable clean energy sources such as wind turbines. In a time when demands upon our energy sources are very high, permitting properties and land uses the ability to generate their own clean, safe energy sources and provide surplus electricity to the hydro grid is a viable mitigation measure for energy supply rates.
“However, the introduction of such structures within a municipality can create unique challenges with respect to an emergency response. The height of such structures could pose difficulties for first providers particularly with respect rescue equipment and rescue techniques for wind turbines. We would encourage council to consider the implementation of operation protocols and emergency response plans for these types of developments so that council and staff including your emergency response coordinator and fire chiefs have an opportunity to review and provide input into these plans.”