TRURO - A moratorium on all non-approved wind turbine applications in Colchester County may be extended for a significant amount of time.
The county’s planning advisory committee (PAC) recently decided to review the municipality's wind turbine bylaw after concerns regarding setback distances for industrial wind turbines were raised last summer by a citizens' group known as the Friends of Harmony Camden. A wind turbine has been proposed for the Lower Harmony area.
On Thursday night, Colchester Council committee ultimately decided to suggest to county council at the end of the month to extend the moratorium for 14 months while a Health Canada study is completed and publicized regarding scientific information relating to whether or not there are health issues associated with wind turbines.
The motion was suggested by Coun. Lloyd Gibbs and supported by everyone except Coun. Doug MacInnes.
About 30 people attended the meeting, consistently cheering when the idea was reiterated.
Brian Whidden lives 1.6 km from the proposed Lower Harmony wind turbine site. He was thrilled with the moratorium extension.
"This is a great first step... I'm very surprised with the outcome," Whidden told the Truro Daily News immediately following the vote.
"We've been at this for a year and a half and with all the hurdles we haven't had a lot" of success, he said.
The community's Sharon Eisemann was ecstatic.
"I'm so happy because of the health reasons," she said, adding she now believes "our voice is being heard. It's refreshing when people in government are listening to the public."
Gibbs said the $1.8-million health study would include blood pressure, heart rate, measured sleep patterns and other potential stresses related to wind turbines.
"Why jeopardize citizens ... we can wait another 14 months," said Gibbs. "We were all concerned about health issues and the unknown with fracking, why is this different?"
MacInnes expressed concern with the length of the health study, saying government-based projects often are a lengthy process.
"How long will it take? Until then we are shutting down development in Colchester County," said MacInnes.
Another related issue dealt with was the review of an updated draft of the wind turbine development bylaw.
Council committee voted to recommend to council that the draft proceed to a first reading based on some updates. Those include recommending setbacks increase from 700 to 1,000 metres, suggesting a requirement to meet a maximum sound standard of 36 dBA measured at existing dwellings, having a decommissioning agreement between the land owner and developer, and implementing more effective communication and advance notice with all property owners within two kms of a proposed site.
Coun. Tom Taggart said his biggest concern related to the potential impact of infrasound created by the turbines. He said he has spoken to sound engineers and was told “infrasound has the potential to affect five per cent of the population to varying degrees.”
Another concern, said Coun. Christine Blair, was the setbacks. Blair prefers they be set at a minimum of 1,500 metres.
The vote, which has to proceed to county council for a month-end vote, passed by a count of 8 to 4. Councillors Blair, Gibbs, Wade Parker and Karen MacKenzie voted against the motion.