Several local residents rallied to make sure their opposition was immediately known to a noise bylaw exemption application for the North Kent One Wind Farm project.
The application was being sought to allow construction on the 34-wind turbine project in the former Chatham Township area to occur all night as well as on Sundays and holidays from Dec. 1 to March 31, 2018. The developer wanted the leeway to pour foundations and erect turbines during this time.
Chatham-Kent's director of building services Paul Lacina said the request was denied to due to objections received from the public and inconsistency with the principles established by council within the bylaw.
Lacina said the calls, emails and texts he personally received was well over 100 on this issue. He added objections were also received by council members and other administrative staff.
“Most times we do an exemption, we don't get anyone calling, or maybe a handful of people, but nothing like the number of calls we received for this issue,” he said.
The Chatham Daily News received an email from Pattern Energy, one of the developers of the project, that the exemption was requested in case the construction schedule was delayed.
The email added, “but we have remained on schedule, so there is no need for evening work.”
Controversy has swirled around the project with several property owners experiencing water well problems, including turbid water and wells being clogged with sediments, which they blame on the pile driving to install spiels for erecting the turbines.
“I heard lots about it,” said Chatham Coun. Michael Bondy, adding the request to have construction go 24/7 as well as on holidays upset many people.
Bondy said a comment he saw on social media was “first they took our water, now they're going to take our sleep.”
The councillor said people were also upset with the timing of an advertisement in a local Chatham weekly newspaper to provide public notice of the application for the bylaw a day before the company wanted it to begin.
Lacina said there wasn't any intention to not give people time to object, noting the applicant was late in submitting the noise bylaw application.
He added the notice included the dates the applicant was seeking, but the exemption wasn't going to be granted the next day.
Lacina also explained the inconsistency with the principles of the bylaw, which was the other reason the application was denied.
He said the basis for the noise bylaw is to ensure people can enjoy their property without being inconvenienced or annoyed by different noises, such as people playing music late into the night or construction.
As an example, Lacina said the Ministry of Transportation often requests noise bylaw exemptions to work at night, but it is usually on Highway 401 where there are no houses nearby. He added the work is often done at night due to public safety reasons, such as not wanting to close Highway 401 during a busy holiday season.
Lacina said many factors are considered when an exemption is sought for the noise bylaw, such as who will be affected, the time frame requested, and if the request exceeds what the noise bylaw is designed for.
“We felt that there was a concern on a number of fronts,” he said.
Lacina noted the developer is currently allowed to work until 11 p.m. Monday to Saturday.
“I'm glad it was denied,” Bondy said, adding many residents in the area “feel they're getting burned by these wind turbine companies in the first place.”