KINGSVILLE – A proposal for Canada’s largest wind farm project took a big leap forward Tuesday with Ontario Municipal Board approval of official plan and zoning bylaw amendments.
It took some last-minute negotiations, but the town and Brookfield Renewable Power finally agreed on the interpretation of the amendments for the $500-million commercial wind farm.
That compromise – after town council rejected the project by a 3-3 tied vote in December and the company appealed that decision to the OMB – averted a full OMB hearing that could have lasted six to eight weeks.
Brookfield hopes to have approval by the end of this year from the Ontario Power Authority for the 148-turbine project that straddles Kingsville and Lakeshore, said senior manager Ian Kerr in an interview after the OMB pre-hearing.
If other approvals fall into place without undue delays, Kerr said the project could be under construction in 2009 with completion in 2010.
Lakeshore’s official plan amendment for the project still needs approval from Essex County. And that step can’t be completed until the county’s recently approved official plan amendments on alternative energy projects are approved by the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
One of the last concerns raised in Kingsville to the Brookfield project came from the owner of a private airstrip who fears the wind farm could force him to shut down.
“If I have to close my airport who is going to compensate me?” asked Ronald Bell. He said three or four of the 120-metre high turbine locations are too close to the airport built by his father in 1948.
Bell and his wife Darlene own the airstrip and two hangars on County Road 14, east of Cottam. He hopes to have his son carry on the business.
Bell was told specific turbine locations are still subject to site plan approval by the municipality, and by Transport Canada before building permits can be obtained.
“The last thing the OMB wants to do is to get into a brouhaha with the Aeronautics Act,” said the OMB’s Marc Denhez, who chaired the pre-hearing.
“Your concern is duly noted,” said Denhez. “None of us want aircraft crashing into turbines.”
On the basis of his own investigations, Bell figured he needed about a three-kilometre buffer from turbines around his airstrip for safety reasons.
Bell was worried about having sufficient clearance from the turbines to take off and land, especially in emergencies. The turbine blades also create turbulence in the air that can affect lighter aircraft, he said.
The planning agreements reached Tuesday resolve the deadlock on wind turbines that split council 3-3 with one abstaining, forcing Brookfield to appeal to the OMB to get approvals.
Originally, the town was contemplating a municipal-wide official plan amendment, but dissenting councillors felt that could lead to projects with negative impacts on the Jack Miner Bird Sanctuary and migratory bird migration.
Howard Elston, Brookfield’s lawyer, said the company gave up other potential projects in Kingsville as part of the compromise approved Tuesday.
Brookfield’s wind turbines are now limited to the northeast corner of Kingsville in former Gosfield North and South townships.
After the last OMB pre-hearing on May 12, Brookfield also mailed out information on its project to 380 Kingsville residents and four in Lakeshore to meet the town’s concern that notice hadn’t been adequate. Previously, notice was given primarily through advertisements in county newspapers and company newsletters.
“We’ve gone that extra step,” said Elston. There should not be a concern with notice.”
Deputy Mayor Katherine Gunning, who was present during Tuesday’s hearing, said other wind turbine projects hoping to locate in the town would have to have their own specific official plan and zoning bylaw amendments.
Gunning also promised Bell the town would help him with his airstrip safety concerns.
Kerr told Bell his company would meet Transport Canada’s safety requirements, but couldn’t promise to exceed them.
Gary Rennie, The Windsor Star
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
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