After seven hours of calculations, presentations and protestations, the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board for the Municipal District of Pincher Creek decided to take a recess before announcing its decision regarding a local developer’s appeal.
“We need to sit down and go through the new information that’s been presented, and to clarify things,” said Appeal Board Chairman Wade Mitchell, concluding the July 26 proceedings.
The appeal, launched by Allan Kettles, follows the MD’s Municipal Planning Commission’s (MPC’s) decision in June to reject his application to build the Heritage Wind Farm, consisting of 112 Vestas V-90 turbines about 12 miles northeast of Pincher Creek, in Summerview.
This is not the first time that Kettles has run afoul of the MPC. Last November, it denied his application to expand his existing Kettles Hill Wind Farm for several reasons, including the absence of a complete list of the involved landowner signatures who were in favour of the project, and the failure to provide key documentation such as noise analysis and setback studies.
The appeal process began with a brief introduction by Kettles’ lawyer, Ron Hansford, speaking on behalf of Kettles’ Benign Energy Canada Inc. as well as his Heritage Wind Power Development Inc.
Kettles followed Hansford’s preamble with a brief presentation entitled ‘Growing Forward: How Wind Energy Helps Agriculture Grow,’ in which he mentioned some of the benefits that wind energy provides to the local community, including clean air, jobs and tax revenue.
“Wind farms are simply another cash crop, or as some people call them, a ‘cash cow,’ for agriculture,” Kettles said.
Kettles provided figures claiming the MD would receive $2.5 million annually in taxes from his proposed project, with this revenue benefiting local farmers and ranchers by helping to keep agricultural and property taxes low.
He also discussed some additional benefits that his proposed wind farm would provide, focusing on energy production and environmental advantages.
“The Heritage Wind Farm will produce 1,087 gigawatt hours of electricity,” Kettles said. “This is enough to power 81,000 homes…and to power all of Pincher Creek for 76 years. Wind power also ensures clean air, water and soil for people and animals alike.”
Kettles’ original application, submitted in July 2006, was denied by the MPC last month for several reasons, including a perceived discrepancy between NAV Canada’s application tower height and the MD’s application tower height, non-compliance with an Oldman River Area Restructure Plan bylaw, failure to provide a flicker/strobe effect analysis and failure to submit an electromagnetic interference analysis as part of a wireless internet interference report.
Hansford maintained his client’s application conformed to all required criteria guidelines, and even surpassed what is required, in some cases.
“This study (the electromagnetic interference analysis) was done in August 2006 and the information was provided to the MPC,” said Hansford. “There is no bylaw requirement for such a report, but the developer (Kettles) went ahead with the study anyway.”
Hansford wrapped up his presentation by requesting the appeal board empathize with his client.
“We are not asking this board to rule on this issue, just to have an appreciation of the challenge the appellant has faced.”
MD Councillor Rod Zielinski was the next representative to speak. His impassioned presentation emphasized the importance of recognizing the role of local residents in making decisions on issues such as the Heritage Wind Farm. “It’s the people in this community (including the MD and MPC officials) who make the decisions about how the community will be built,” said Zielinski.
Zielinski also stressed that this issue is important for more reasons than just economics.
“Not only are the dollars big in this submission, but this is a very big appeal for other reasons as well,” Zielinski said. “People are watching us. I don’t think it’d be telling tales out of school to say that wind farm development and Pincher Creek are viewed nationally.”
Members from the public gallery were also given a chance to address the appeal board.
Local resident Barry Sylvester cited noise levels, flicker and shadow problems caused by the turbines, and the potential decline of property values among the reasons why he and many others living in the area where the proposed wind farm would be constructed are opposed to the project.
“A number of residents, including myself, are very concerned about this project,” Sylvester told the board.
Another local resident, Bjorn Berg, proclaimed his support for the Heritage Wind Farm development, saying the project has been treated in a prejudicial manner, pointing to such things as the MPC’s request for a cumulative effects report (dealing with the sharing of transmission lines and substations with previously-approved wind farms) as evidence of the MPC’s bias.
“A cumulative effects analysis was not provided, nor has it been required of any other WECS (Wind Energy Conversion Systems) application, including the Alberta Wind Energy Incorporated Wind Farm,” said Berg.
Zielinski said providing answers to this project’s many unanswered questions
“The appellant implies that we’re being too tough, asking too many questions,” said Zielinski, “but I think we have to.
“I don’t think we have to deny the wind farm. We just need more information.”
By Scott Carmichael
2 August 2007
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