More people than the small Wolfe Island council chamber holds were at the regular May meeting of Frontenac Islands council to hear 4 residents speaking in opposition to the Wind Plant Zoning By-law amendment.
The opponents claim lack of information, due diligence, transparency, no debate,and faulty process in council’s passage of the Official Plan Amendment, the Zoning By-law amendment and holding provision in advance of the ESR (Environmental Screening report). Council is also in receipt of letters for and against the wind plant. Also present was Township Solicitor Tim Wilkin and Clark Consulting Services Jennifer Current. Mayor Vanden Hoek commented that Frontenac Islands was well down the road in terms of process as he opened the meeting.
”We are here to take issue with that,” said Lynne Moore, a seasonal resident representing Wolfe Island Residents for the Environment (WIRE) . Moore said that the impact of wind turbines is being felt with cottage and home plans being shelved, properties up for sale, and residential growth in jeopardy. “WIRE is mobilizing to ensure that the wind plant does not go forward as planned by Canadian Hydro Developers. Its time to ensure the ESR is provided to the public.” She said WIRE met MPP John Gerretsen who was surprised at council’s lack of response to their concerns. ”Shame on you for not representing your constituents better.”
She presented a list of 21 issues with resolutions and solutions that included rescinding the Zoning By-law amendment, an independent feasibility study of the project, an all taxpayer referendum, etc. noting petitions are being signed and legal action and referral to the Ombudsman is under consideration.
Resident Janet White representing herself and her two sons spoke passionately about the possible effects of the wind plant to health and safety. “ I have been bullied by CREC. For 6 years we have said no. I don’t want to live under a turbine with a 45-75 decibel sound for the rest of my life,” she said. “ People will be suing about health and safety. If there wasn’t due diligence, rescind the bylaw or there will be anarchy.” She also expressed concern about the effect of the project on the ferry.
Resident Lisa De Angelis spoke of feelings of divisiveness, hostility, anger and fear that now exist. “Regardless of the outcome relationships are being irrevocably damaged.” She noted unanswered questions (health & safety, size, birds, noise, bargain basement equipment, property values, etc.). “Our concerns are well founded. Wolfe Island is not dying but it is changing from agricultural to residential… “ she said.
Mayor Vanden Hoek read into the record Ms.Hilary Dempsey’s statement (unable to attend) Dempsey (not present) who echoed much of what had already been said about process stating her building plans are on hold. The mayor called upon Solicitor Wilkin and Ms Current to offer comments.
With regard to process Solicitor Wilkin said, “Council has adhered to all the procedural requirements that are laid down in the planning act (now in effect) and its regulations in terms of timing , notices, to whom and so forth. Whether council should have done more is not a legal issue. I have seen nothing from Minister John Gerretsen to either deny or corroborate statements attributed to him. What I can tell you is that while council adopted the Official Plan amendment which established the principal for developing this part of the island for wind turbines, it did not come into effect until it was approved by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and that’s Mr. Garretsen. That’s the process in the planning act and that was the process that was followed.”
With reference to the ESR and whether it should have been completed before the zoning bylaw, Wilkin said council passed the zoning bylaw but imposed a holding symbol meaning that none of the turbines can be built until the ESR is completed noting that zoning issues are raised in the appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board and OMB will have to decide.
“There is nothing in the legislation, nothing in the regulation that says an ESR has to be completed first. There are 2 pieces of legislation at play, the Environmental Assessment Act and the Planning Act, both completely independent and neither speaks to one occurring ahead of the other,” he said.
With reference to the appropriateness or the adequacy of the setbacks to adjacent properties, Willkin said there are ongoing discussions between the appellant and the proponent about the setbacks. “Whether they will result in a resolution I don’t know but if not, it will come before the OMB for a decision.”
With regard to the Amenities Agreement, Willkin said that it is a contract between the developer and the township and has nothing to do with the proponent and the individual land owners how the money that flows to the municipality directly from the developer will be divided, (if at all) between Wolfe Island and Howe Island “The agreement is very much one sided in your favour and outlines the duties and responsibilities of the developer to the municipality both financial and non financial (infrastructure: roads, ferry, etc.), ” Wilkin concluded.
Ms. Current said the Official Plan amendment was approved Dec. 2006 by Municipal Affairs,. the zoning bylaw amendment generated two appeals and the appeal process for the ESR is not under the Planning act but rather the Environmental Assessment act. The developer will release the ESR, (upgraded to a Environmental Review report), for a 30 day public review process. “The developers started with a broad canvas of optioned land which they then had to narrow down (flight paths, wet lands , dwellings etc.) until they were left with the area where turbines could be placed Any member of the public can call for a “bump up” to the Director of MOE. If the director does not agree, one further appeal may be made,” Current said. The Mayor added that the municipality had the authority to set setbacks, but MOE is responsible for habitat, flight paths, wet lands etc. and those setbacks overlay on the zoning bylaw.
There were demands from the public to rescind by-laws and for Mayor Vanden Hoek to resign as well as shouts of support for the Mayor and the wind plant as the public left. The council meeting continued through a long agenda. (Five days of OMB hearings are scheduled to begin Mon. July 23rd at Sacred Heart School)
HOWE ISLAND COMMUNITY YARD, PLANT & BAKE SALE, Sat. June 2, 2007, 8:30am - 2:00pm St. Philomena's Church Hall, Sponsored by the Howe Island Garden Buds