Inverness reviewing bylaw for wind turbine developments

PORT HOOD: The municipality is reviewing its land use bylaw and planning strategy regarding wind turbine development.

During the regular monthly meeting of Inverness Municipal Council on May 5 in Port Hood, Chief Administrative Officer Keith MacDonald told council that staff has contacted the Eastern District Planning Commission (EDPC) about a potential moratorium on wind mill permits. He reported that EDPC Director John Bain will attend council’s next Planning Advisory Committee meeting to outline next steps in what he called a “complicated process.”

District 4 Councillor John MacLennan said he supports wind power and council should support such developments.

“That’s a business development, and I don’t think we should stop it, that’s what pretty well the whole world is going by, alternate power. I don’t know why Inverness County is going to get on a bandwagon to try and stop it,” he told council. “I know there are wind mills and some of them don’t look good but that’s the way the world is going. At the same time, which one would you rather; a smokestack or a wind mill?”

Deputy Warden Catherine Gillis said she “thinks differently” about the subject.

Pointing to “community-based concerns,” Gillis said council has have heard a number of presentations for and against Community Wind’s proposal to put a wind farm on Creignish Mountain.

“It’s a large scale industrial project. They’re proposing perhaps 16 to 18 (turbines); we haven’t got a final number on that,” she said. “The height of the wind turbines was proposed to be between 200 metres and potentially higher. The latest update, it could be up to 250 metres.”

Gillis said the current bylaw is weak and needs to be updated.

“Our bylaw was written in 2011. The current bylaw defines large scale wind turbines as 100 to 115 metres, these are double,” she noted. “I feel our bylaw is weak; industry knows it. The bylaw is the only measure we have to protect our residents.”

Gillis is also concerned about the decommissioning of the project.

“What measures do we have in place to ensure after the lifespan of these projects, or even if there’s damage to blades, that kind of thing, who’s on the hook? Is it taxpayers on the hook for the decommissioning?”

Pointing to the environmental impacts, Gillis said an assessment is needed.

“We don’t have any of these (turbines) in Atlantic Canada that are that high so there’s going to be an environment assessment. Does the province have the ability to assess that at this point? I don’t feel that our municipality should be the lab rat,” she stated. “I have concerns about the environmental impact.”

Since tourism is one of the biggest industries in Inverness County, the Deputy Warden is worried that “visual effects” from the project will hurt the sector.

“Our municipality generates millions of dollars in tourism,” she noted. “The municipality has also invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in our branding and we’re the Musical Coast, we’re not the wind mill coast. Our duty, I feel, is to protect our citizens and their most precious asset is their property.”

Gillis moved that no applications for large or small scale wind turbine projects be accepted until the municipality updates its bylaw.

“All I’m asking is that we delay any development until we get our bylaws straightened out. I don’t see any downside to that. We’re just not going to issue permits for that period of time until we have some more information,” she added.

Despite a “nay” vote from MacLennan, the motion passed and staff was directed to start the bylaw review process.