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Municipality leaves coalition twisting in the wind
By Liz Dadson

Kincardine council

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Kincardine council has left a proposed municipal coalition on noise regulation, twisting in the wind.

Warren Howard made a presentation to committee- of-the-whole Thursday night (Jan. 9), outlining the possibility of forming a coalition of municipalities, to draw up a noise bylaw to regulate the industrial wind turbine industry.

A member of North Perth council, Howard said he came to Kincardine council on behalf of the coalition committee.

"Kincardine has a noise problem, and it's going to get more serious if the Armow Wind project is approved," he said. "Municipal noise bylaws need to be updated to reflect changes in the rural noise environment."

He said the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE) allows audible noise of 40-51 dBA (decibels) for wind projects. However, the ambient rural night-time noise is in the range of 20-25 dBA.

Howard said a community group in the Kincardine area, HALT (Huron-Kinloss Against Lakeshore Turbines),has funded research into legal options for municipalities to regulate noise.

That group also retained and obtained legal advice from an environmental/municipal lawyer, he said. Now, he is approaching municipalities, seeking wider participation for a coalition.

Howard said the planning powers were taken away from the municipalities with the Green Energy Act. But municipalities still have responsibility for the health, safety and well-being of their citizens, control of public nuisances, and regulation of such things as noise, vibration, odour and dust.

The proposed coalition would use a noise bylaw to establish a "Quiet Nights" noise level limit for rural areas of the municipality, said Howard. This would prohibit any "clearly audible" noise in these areas during a defined night-time period.

It would also provide general exemptions for specified farming practices, festivals, etc. And would be enforced by municipal bylaw officers, in the same manner as other noise enforcement.

"This is our recommendation," said Howard. "A 'Quiet Nights' noise bylaw would be easy to develop and easy to defend."

The coalition would work together on a common noise bylaw, share generic bylaw development, and request a court review of the bylaw.

Howard said drafting the generic bylaw would cost about $30,000 to $50,000, while the court review would cost about $250,000.

"Is Kincardine interested?" asked Howard.

Councillor Randy Roppel was definitely interested, and was ready to jump on the coalition band wagon.

As was councillor Jacqueline Faubert.

However, other councillors were not as quick to bound ahead with the proposal.

Councillor Maureen Couture said she was encouraged by the idea of a coalition because her concern all along was Kincardine taking on this kind of challenge against the wind industry, all alone.

"Have any other municipalities committed to this and how much money have they put in?" she asked.

"We're not at that stage yet," said Howard. "We need the commitment and funding in order to proceed."

Couture recommended that the HALT solicitor and Kincardine's municipal solicitor meet with Kincardine chief administrative officer Murray Clarke to discuss the proposal, and bring a report back to council.

Deputy mayor Anne Eadie said approaching the municipalities on the inter-municipal wind turbine working group would be a good start. Then a proper Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or another type of agreement could be drawn up so everyone understands the financial obligations.

Howard said the first stage is simply for municipalities to agree with the coalition, in principle, and determine an amount of funding. From there, the coalition can be formed and details set out later in the required agreements.

"Are you interested in taking this to the next stage?" he asked.

Councillor Kenneth Craig noted that Kincardine already has a noise bylaw in place. "Why have we not sent our bylaw officer out to turn off the wind turbines? Has anybody asked us to?"

"Not to my knowledge," said Clarke.

"We would find out quick enough that it takes more than a noise bylaw to shut down the turbines," said Craig.

He agreed with sending the issue to staff, with a report back to council.

 

Mayor Larry Kraemer said Kincardine has already received legal advice about the wind turbines and noise regulation.

"So, we send our bylaw enforcement officer out to do what?" he asked. "We can't do much about it. What power do we have to shut down the turbines? The loss-of-revenue (from the wind companies) would be charged to the Kincardine taxpayers."

He asked Howard if North Perth is part of the coalition?

Howard said North Perth does not have a wind turbine project under way in the municipality. His council gave general support.

Faubert said if the Armow Wind project goes through, it means $450,000 per year in taxes to the municipality which equates to $9-million over the 20-year life span of the project.

"It takes one municipality to get the ball rolling," she said. "Kincardine has other municipalities looking to see what we do. We should step up to the plate and set the required money aside."

"That $450,000 is needed for a lot of projects in the municipality," said Couture, adding that Kincardine receives only a portion of that money which includes a Bruce County levy and provincial education tax.

Couture put forward a motion to have the two solicitors meet with Clarke and bring a report back to council. That was seconded by Craig.

Roppel suggested Kincardine put $50,000 on the table and show proper support for this coalition.

Couture said some factors have changed since council received legal advice about wind turbines. So, it would be beneficial to have the discussion amongst the two solicitors and the CAO, and bring it back to council.

"I would like to see if other municipalities are interested," said Eadie. "The provincial government can run over a few of us rather easily, especially in rural Ontario."

Kraemer called the vote on Couture's motion and it was defeated.

Faubert put forward a motion to support the coalition with $50,000.

"You've got to be kidding," said Kraemer.

"If it's challenged, you could be facing costs of $1-million," said Eadie. "I want to see an agreement first, with a minimum amount of funding, perhaps $5,000, $10,000 or $15,000, but not $50,000."

Faubert's motion was defeated.

Councillor Candy Hewitt put forward a motion recommending the same as Faubert's motion, but with a $10,000 funding commitment.

"Our focus should be on protecting our citizens, not campaigning against the wind industry," said councillor Ron Coristine. "I'm not opposing business that wants to locate here."

Hewitt's motion was defeated.

"Our benchmark is the funding committed for this coalition," said Howard. "If we have no funding, the project is dead."

"Thank you for your presentation," said Kraemer.

He noted that if the issue is to be revisited, it must be done by a councillor on the prevailing side of one of the motions. Or a councillor could bring forward a notice of motion at next week's council meeting.

"We have to move on," he said.



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Thursday, January 09, 2014