Several Ontario municipalities have been discussing the possibility of creating a bylaw for the benefit of all communities with wind power generation projects, so their residents may be protected against the environmental noise and low frequency vibration produced by the turbines.
The Ontario Ministry of the Environment is supposed to be monitoring the noise from wind power projects, but as was disclosed to the Environmental Review Tribunal hearing the appeal of the Samsung-Pattern Armow project, the Ministry’s position is that the wind power developers’ computer modelling for the turbines must be correct, so if they receive complaints for a project that therefore incapable of producing noise over the regulated limits, they don’t even investigate.
Worse, noise complaints go to the “Spills Line” which was really set up for ordinary environmental spills into air and water and on land, and the complaints are kept at the district level—they NEVER go to head office in Toronto for analysis and action.
So, while the municipalities are fighting to regain local land use planning control, they are also seeking ways to protect. Kincardine Council voted this week to begin the coalition of municipalities.
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Kincardine backs plan to form coalition, create noise nuisance bylaw
By Barb McKay
Kincardine will support forming a coalition with other municipalities to develop a noise nuisance bylaw and plans to contribute $30,000 over two years to help make it happen.
It was the third time in as many weeks that council debated the idea of joining forces with other municipalities to come up with a bylaw that regulate industrial noise, including that from wind turbines, in rural areas. Last Wednesday council finally reached a concensus and approved two motions to support the plan, first presented by Warren Howard on behalf of Huron-Kinloss Against Lakeshore Turbines (HALT) on Jan. 8. That group indicated it will cost an estimated $300,000 to develop the bylaw and defend it in court.
The first motion, introduced by councillor Ken Craig, called on municipal staff to get legal advice on joining the coalition and developing the noise nuisance bylaw.
“If it’s a great idea you wonder why it hasn’t been done one hundred times before, and maybe it has,” said Craig.
He said before council agrees to join the coalition he would like to understand if there are any liabilities associated with doing so.
Councillor Jacqeline Faubert said coalitions have been formed many times in Ontario to deal with different issues. She pointed to Kincardine’s plans to form a municipal services corporation with Huron-Kinloss Township and Arran-Elderslie Township for the natural gas project as a prime example.
Deputy mayor Anne Eadie questioned if council would be putting the cart before the horse by seeking legal advice before it was determined if a coalition would even before formed.
“I agree that we need to consult a lawyer, but without an agreement from other municipalities we don’t have anything to take to a lawyer,” she said.
Councillor Randy Roppel said he supported the municipality seeking legal advice, but that it might be more make sense to do so as a coalition, rather than having 20 municipalities individually talk to a lawyer.
“I think we will need our own legal advice either way,” Kraemer said, and council agreed.
The second motion, introduced by Faubert, directs council to strongly support forming a coalition to draft a generic noise nuisance bylaw and to pledge $15,000 annually for two years to fund the coalition, which will include legal costs to test the bylaw out in court. The funds are conditional on other municipalities committing funds to the endeavor; the creation of a memorandum of understanding signed by other coalition members; and a plan to move the process forward.
“The courts have ruled in Ontario that noise and nuisance are legitimate municipal matters,” Faubert said. “I’ve been empowered by the ratepayers and this is a chance to do something. I feel very optimistic about this.”
Councillor Ron Coristine asked for a friendly amendment to the motion to add a communication protocol for participating municipalities to the memorandum of understanding, and council agreed.
Councillor Maureen Couture said by Kincardine putting its money where its mouth is, it may encourage other municipalities to join the coalition. But, she added, she would be more comfortable pledging funds for one year to avoid committing the next council to providing the money. Roppel said the next council could choose not to allocate the funds if it didn’t want to.
Councillor Candy Hewitt said the process to create the bylaw and have it go through the court system will in all likelihood take more than a year and it would be appropriate to commit funds for two years.
“It’s something at the ground level that shows that we really are trying to do something with the little power that we have to effect change,” she said.
Mayor Larry Kraemer said he was concerned that pledging $15,000 per year would scare off smaller municipalities who would like to participate but may assume they would have to contribute the same amount. He said he believes it will take at least 100 municipalities to have an impact.
Council voted in favour of both motions. Municipal staff is expected to bring a report back to council with legal advice regarding joining the coalition by Feb. 19.