Recently the township circulated a letter to area residents informing us that they were holding a zoning meeting to consider the re-zoning of the agricultural land around us to allow wind farms to be installed.
I have no problems with having wind turbines in my area. Unlike some of my neighbours, I don’t think they are eyesores (I actually think they are quite beautiful). Nor do I have concerns about noise or red lights shining in my bedroom at night, or even bird migration. I figure that if birds are smart enough to learn not to fly into trees and telephone poles they’ll be smart enough to avoid flying into a wind turbine. It’s not like the blades of a wind turbine spin as fast as an airplane propeller.
My concern was around the necessity for re-zoning and whether they proposed re-zoning to a light industrial category. The area I live in is a wine region and is also known for the type of soil we have to produce quality seed. Geographically, we are in the southernmost point in Canada. We have Carolinian forests and a climate unlike anywhere else in Canada. I moved here because I wanted to live amongst the vineyards, corn, wheat, tomato and soy bean fields. I like to see the jersey cows and paint horses as I drive to work. What I would hate is to one-day see a widget factory move in where a vineyard once was.
So off Lise and I trekked to the town meeting last night to learn more about what was going on. When we received the notice of the meeting I wrote the town clerk for more information and my request was responded to by the town planner. He answered many of my questions but since I had never been to a council meeting and hadn’t had an opportunity to hear both sides of the debate, I felt it was important to attend.
My first impression was surprise at how small the council chamber was. I was glad we got there early because there wasn’t enough seating for everybody who came. People were standing in the doorway, spilling out into the hall and with all those people crammed into that small room, it was hot.
The wind power company were the first presenters and I think they did a pretty good job addressing many people’s concerns about the wind farm project. After they spoke and the councilors asked their questions, citizens who had asked to be put on the agenda, were given an opportunity to voice their position and ask questions.
Most of the people who came out in favour of the project were landowners who had agreed to lease portions of their land for the turbines. These folks, of course, have a vested interest as they will be receiving royalties for allowing the turbines on their properties. All but one of the folks who spoke in opposition came from a “not-in-my-backyard” place. They didn’t mind the idea of wind turbines but didn’t want to live anywhere near them. The one woman who did speak in opposition raised some valid points about safety and impact to the local agricultural environment and wildlife. Her arguments were well-reasoned and documented and the councilors put her questions to the power company representatives.
With amendments to increase the set-backs for safety reasons, the council voted in favour of granting the re-zoning application to allow the wind farm project to go forward. The re-zoning was actually a variance to the existing zoning category of general agriculture to allow the wind turbines as a secondary use under the existing zoning. So I’m pleased that the agricultural designation is preserved.
Witnessing this process though has been interesting. It illustrated to me how people really do fear change. Folks seem to be alright with change as long as it remains something “out there” and doesn’t mean that they have to adjust anything in their lives. All of the objections I heard last night: my property value will fall, they’ll keep me awake at night, I will see them from my house, this will kill the local tourism industry etc. were all examples of fear of change.
Wind farms may not be the panacea for eliminating our dependence on fossil fuel or nuclear powered generators, but it is a first step towards something more sustainable. It’s one of the things we can do right now if only we have the courage to face our fear of change.