By Eric Bourque
Another step towards new setback rules for wind turbines in the Municipality of Argyle was taken Thursday, Aug. 16, when the municipality’s planning advisory committee held a public participation meeting to discuss the matter.
The new setback requirement for large-scale wind-energy projects such as the one that had been proposed for the Little River Harbour-Comeau’s Hill area – a controversial project vehemently opposed by many residents in those communities (and recently rejected by the province) – would be 1,000 metres from any dwelling, although members of the public attending the PAC session said the setback should be two-and-a-half times greater than that.
The initial wording was that the 1,000-metre setback should be from “principal” dwellings, but, after some discussion during Thursday’s PAC meeting, the consensus was to have it apply to all dwellings, including seasonal ones.
The existing setback requirement for wind farms in the Municipality of Argyle is based on a formula involving the length of the turbine blade. The new setback would apply to new projects.
The proposed setback change still has some steps to go through before it becomes law. The matter will come up again at a planning advisory committee meeting Sept. 20 and Argyle council would have a committee-of-the-whole meeting the following week. Assuming everything falls into place as many hope it will, the 1,000-metre setback could officially be in effect by early October or thereabouts.
Still, while this would be an improvement over the existing setback requirement, residents of the Municipality of Argyle who say they are concerned about the potential harmful effects of big wind-energy projects say 1,000 metres isn’t enough.
Some of the same people who were most vocal in their opposition to the wind farm that had been proposed for the Little River Harbour-Comeau’s Hill area by Anaia Global Renewable Energies attended Thursday’s Argyle PAC meeting and said the setback should be 2.5 kilometres. Moreover, they say the setback should be from the landowner’s property line, not from his or her house.
The Anaia project was the focus of a heated community meeting in Comeau’s Hill five weeks ago, residents expressing concern about how the proposed wind farm could affect their health and the environment among other things. A few weeks later, however, when the province announced it had selected three commercial-scale wind-energy projects, the Anaia proposal wasn’t one of them.
While this particular project may have fallen through, however, residents remain concerned about the wind-energy issue and about new projects that may come along. They indicated at the PAC meeting that they plan to pursue a more stringent setback requirement.
One of the main themes to emerge in recent weeks during the meetings where wind farms have been discussed is what residents feel has been a lack of communication or information, a point acknowledged by representatives of the municipality during Thursday’s planning session, a situation they say they want to try to address.