A majority Essex Council vote on Monday turned down an endorsement proposal for the proposed Blue Sky Wind Turbine Farm. An endorsement would allow the project to earn priority points through the Ontario Power Authority Feed-on-Tariff (FIT) program. The FIT 2.0 rule gives greater priority points to projects with community participation or Council endorsement.
Tim Sullivan and David Timm of International Power GDF Suez requested Council’s support of the Blue Sky Wind Farm to receive the priority points, which is slated to be bounded by Concession 14 to the north, the north and south sides of North Malden Road to the south, the Chrysler Canada Greenway to the west, and Pinkerton and Batton to the east (between Essex Centre and McGregor).
The project includes 27 industrial grade turbines, service roads, and connection infrastructure on 44 properties (25 landowners) in the aforementioned boundary. The project was started in 2007.
Sullivan noted they have held four open houses regarding the matter and they were required to host another. The last open house could have been held as early as 2009.
In an informational letter submitted to Council from Sullivan, it stated that the FIT 2.0 program includes a point system with the aim to promote projects having local Council endorsement. Acquiring the points is not mandatory; it just gives the company a better chance at being awarded a contract through the OPA.
Tim added that support would allow the corporation to move forward so they could move onto the next step with the OPA, and complete more detailed studies and consultations. The resolution does not guarantee a contract, he said.
In the report, prepared by Essex Policy Planner Jeff Watson and Director of Infrastructure and Development Chris Nepszy and submitted to Council it stated that due to the adoption of the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, the local authority to either approve or not approve major green energy projects was removed from municipal Councils, with the exception of building permits. Approval is granted through the OPA.
The report submitted to Council stated with limited transmission and distribution capacity in various regions, the endorsement could give an advantage to a proponent, if multiple projects are applying.
Several delegates were allowed to share their concerns, questions, or support for the project during the Council meeting. Dave Santo, who is a landowner and was obtained by the corporation to act as a community organizer for the project, said he supported the project as a participant and a resident.
Resident Cathy Meloche’s concern was that many of her neighbours were unaware of the project. She suggested that before endorsing the project, Council should notify the area’s residents or hold a public open house.
Local business owner and resident Cindy Barnett-Schulz commented that she was neither for nor against the project but said Council should exercise caution when making a decision regarding the issue when it comes to the well-being of the residents. “I have to believe that Council will make a decision in the best interest of the Town, not in the best interest of the corporation,” she said.
Brenda Dunn, a Harrow resident, outlined Council’s history regarding turbines. She also said that the project should not get Council’s endorsement until it is known where the turbines are going, that the Town is fairly compensated, and that people be protected from noise and vibration.
Harrow resident Colette McLean said she is not in support of the project.
Ted Gorski, a resident in Harrow who has a turbine on his property, found there was minimal disruption to his farm practice. He asked that Council provide the letter of endorsement. Harrow resident Murdo McLean added that he has three turbines on his property and at no time did he feel uncomfortable in dealing with AIM, the company who installed he Harrow wind farm. Pat Jackson, however, noted that she lives 1.4 kms away from a turbine and thinks its vibrations may be the source of her sleep deprivation. She said that when the wind comes in from the north, the sound emitting from the turbines is awful.
Councillor Randy Voakes noted that this is a controversial issue. It was his intent to do the right thing. He said he is an advocate for equality and fairness. He was in favour of hosting an open house before endorsing the wind project for the priority points.
Councillor Morley Bowman noted the endorsement is just a mechanism for International Power GCF Suez Canada Inc. to move forward with obtaining the priority points, but would have no impact on the project itself as municipalities have no authority on the matter and municipal input is minimal. Councillor Sherry Bondy added that she was fresh to the concept, and was neither for nor against them. She said she did believe that there would be huge implications if Council sanctioned the endorsement during the meeting. She said she would like to hold a public information session to learn the pros and cons out of respect for the residents.
Though the boundary of the project is situated on 44 properties, more than 900 properties and 2200 residents would be affected, Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche said. He believed that not enough notice had been given about the project. He wanted to table the issue until an open house could be held so affected residents could be heard.
In support of the endorsement were Councillors John Scott and Bill Baker. Baker noted that the project was about job creation and sustainability.
After a recess, Meloche forwarded a motion to not give prioritization or to endorse the wind project. In a recorded vote, Councillors Scott, Baker, and Voakes opposed. Mayor Ron McDermott, Meloche, Bondy, and Bowman supported the motion that resulted in not sending a priority letter in regards to the project.
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