Even though 84 per cent of residents opposed wind turbines, the Elgin County municipality that hugs Lake Erie learned Thursday it will end up with them anyway under a process the government promised would give local sentiments a priority.
“We were totally ignored,” Dutton-Dunwich Mayor Cameron McWilliam said. “We live in the province of Toronto, not the province of Ontario.”
A new round of wind farm development announced Thursday awards a contract to Chicago-based Invenergy to build dozens of industrial turbines in Dutton-Dunwich.
The municipality was the first in Ontario to hold a vote for residents on the issue and subsequently passed a resolution declaring itself an unwilling host for wind farm development. Another 89 Ontario municipalities also have passed the “not a willing host” resolution.
McWilliam said he was stunned Thursday when Dutton-Dunwich was on the list of new green energy projects.
The Ontario government had repeatedly assured McWilliam and other rural leaders that the wishes of local residents would be respected in a new era of public consultation.
In testimony before a legislature committee in November 2013, Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli said municipalities wouldn’t be given a veto over projects but it would be “very rare indeed” for any to be approved without municipal backing.
“It will be almost impossible for somebody to win one of those bidding processes without an engagement with the municipality,” Chiarelli said.
Representatives of Dutton-Dunwich had met with the Ontario government several times to make it clear the industrial wind turbines were unwanted, McWilliam said.
“They talked about local engagement and the need for local support. There wasn’t that support in Dutton-Dunwich. We’re disappointed,” he said.
McWilliam said the decision was particularly odd considering some other municipalities had rolled out the welcome mat for wind farm projects.
Malahide Township, which already has a wind farm, was one of them. Malahide Township Mayor Dave Mennill said he was shocked that a project proposed for Malahide was rejected while one was approved in Dutton-Dunwich.
It is a tough blow for both municipalities, he said.
“If you want to really tick people off, ask them for their input and then ignore it,” Mennill said. “I’m at a loss to explain it. Obviously, pricing trumps (community) support.” …
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