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Development of wind farm policy gets go-ahead

By Gord Whitehead, Special to the Times-Advocate

LAMBTON SHORES — With more than 100 concerned ratepayers straining to listen, Lambton Shores council has authorized its staff to continue the process of developing a municipal policy and proposed development agreement dealing with planned wind turbine projects.

After a lengthy and often inaudible discussion in Thedford Legacy Centre’s acoustically challenged meeting hall, council voted to accept in principle a 44-page ‘information’ report prepared and summarized by clerk Carol McKenzie. Council temporarily moved its chamber from the regular village complex site to accommodate the anticipated crowd of anti-wind activists.

Faced with mounting concerns about two ‘industrial’ turbine projects now working their way through the provincial approval process, council has been pressing the clerk to search for ways of protecting municipal assets, including infrastructure investment, against the potentially damaging impact of such major projects. NextEra’s Jericho project would have about 80 turbines in Lambton Shores while Suncor’s Cedar Point plan shows 24, with 38 towers in adjoining Warwick and Plympton-Wyoming.

Two smaller projects already operating in Lambton Shores were subject to municipal regulations now superceded by Ontario’s Green Energy Act which leaves few options for local control.

“We can do only so much,” said municipal planner Patti Richardson in summing up the dilemma.

McKenzie offered a proposed wind turbine development policy that would require an application fee for a ‘municipal consultation form review’ and a development agreement between a wind energy company and the municipality. The consultation form would ask the company for comment on issues such as location of the project with respect to infrastructure and servicing, road access, traffic management plans, service connections, emergency management, rehabilitation, utility services, natural heritage and building code issues.

McKenzie suggests that fees for wind farm development agreements will be researched. The municipality’s current fee structure is $3,500 for a development agreement application, $5,000 minimum initial deposit for peer review and site inspection and an agreement preparation fee based on a percentage of the servicing costs.

Council passed a motion directing staff to explore the appropriate permit fees for industrial wind turbines and Met (test) towers and to further refine the proposals in the clerk’s information report.

Suggestions by members of the public gallery included a wind turbine setback of two kilometres, requirement of a development company guarantee or bond to the municipality for potential major expenses and that municipal drains be protected from damage during the construction phase of wind turbine projects.

Other council notes:

Scant information on CAO saga

Lambton Shores council met in closed session Nov. 27 with a solicitor “regarding employment matters relating to CAO John Byrne” and to consider a letter from the Donnelly Murphy law firm.

A motion was passed after the closed session, “That the council rise and report progress on a legal matter, and that staff proceed with the directions given on the legal matter.”

Meanwhile, the Office of the Ombudsman of Ontario reports that it is continuing the review of six complaints over council’s Nov. 13 closed meeting that resulted in unexplained action against Byrne. The review will determine if the complaints warrant a formal investigation.

After the Nov. 13 session, Mayor Bill Weber said that council had voted to suspend Byrne with pay but two days later, after legal advice had been obtained, said in a news release that the CAO had been placed on ‘non-disciplinary leave.’ Byrne told a former colleague that during the Nov. 13 encounter, he was informed that he was being terminated, told to hand over his keys, computer and BlackBerry and was escorted from the building.

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