The Stratford Beacon Herald
Perth County council was careful not to drift into the contentious wind turbine debate Thursday but wants some direction on what member municipalities can and can’t do under the Green Energy Act.
Councillors approved a motion directing planning staff to prepare a background report on issues like building permit fees and security deposits related to the future dismantling of turbine installations.
The aim, said Coun. Bob Wilhelm, is to develop some consistency across the county.
“We thought perhaps it would be beneficial if the county took the lead and all the lower-tiers in Perth County had similar bylaws and fees,” said Wilhelm.
Perth South staff has already contacted other municipalities and found that fees are “all over the map,” added Coun. Jim Aitcheson, suggesting that some uniformity would serve the county well.
Planning director Dave Hanly was cautious.
“Certainly from a staff perspective, we don’t wish to be embroiled in the raging controversy out there over wind turbines and whether they’re good or bad,” he said.
Instead, staff would simply look at what’s being done in and around Perth County with respect to building permit and security deposit fees and “keep to the facts.”
No legal opinion would be sought, he said.
Coun. Julie Behrns, North Perth’s mayor, said her municipality has also done some legwork on the issue and would be happy to share that information. She also acknowledged Hanly’s concerns.
“We’re not asking you to take an opinion on wind turbines,” she said. “We’re just asking you what do we have a right to ask for or not ask for in a development like this.”
For many municipalities, it’s a matter that’s “outside of our normal scope,” said Behrns.
A question from Coun. Bill French about land-use planning for wind turbines and how to minimize the amount of agricultural land eaten up by the installations brought a quick response from Hanly about jurisdiction.
“It is my understanding of the Green Energy Act that the province has essentially written upper-tier and lower-tier municipalities out of the equation when it comes to Official Plan and zoning matters through the legislation,” he said. “It is within the province’s domain.”
Municipalities may be able to encourage the use of common laneways to access wind turbines, for example, he said, but have little control over things like the actual location of the towers.