The Municipality of the District of Chester has given its approval to a controversial Lunenburg County wind farm.
Council voted Thursday to enter into a development agreement for the South Canoe project.
The $200-million wind farm, which will be the province’s largest, was the subject of much debate at recent public hearings. South Canoe will have 34 turbines and be built on a 3,044-hectare property between Vaughan and New Russell.
A South Canoe spokeswoman said the decision allows the project to fine-tune its construction schedule.
“That’s set to begin this spring,” Mary-Frances Lynch said in an interview. “The next step would be clearing and road building.”
The community will continue to be involved in the project’s development through a liaison committee, she said.
Oxford Frozen Foods and Minas Basin Pulp and Power Co. Ltd. are South Canoe’s lead developers.
Nova Scotia Power owns a 49 per cent stake in the project, slated to be operational by Jan. 1, 2015.
While some residents are in favour of the wind farm and the jobs it would create, others have expressed concern about potential health impacts, setback distances and the effect on property values.
A Friends of South Canoe Lake spokesman said the group was disappointed by council’s decision.
“We were not saying we didn’t want the project to go forward, “ Emery Peters said. “All we said was take the time to look at it and assess it properly before you make decisions.”
Peters, who has a New Russell cottage, said the group will have to discuss its next move, which could include appealing the decision to the provincial regulator.
Council voted 6-1 in favour of approving the development agreement. Coun. Tina Connors, who represents the New Ross area, was the lone representative to vote against the motion.
Warden Allen Webber said the agreement was approved because council felt the project complied with the district’s land-use bylaw and municipal planning strategy.
“Once you separate some of the emotional issues from it, you get down to the manner in which you have to judge the proposal,” Webber said after the meeting.
Councillors looked at setbacks in other parts of the province, as well as other areas, in making their decision, he said.
South Canoe’s 92-metre turbines will be at least 1.2 kilometres from the nearest residence. That compares with a one-kilometre distance in Halifax, the municipality with the next-greatest setback in the province.
With Thursday’s decision, the project awaits one last approval from the Utility and Review Board.
Nova Scotia Power has asked the provincial regulator to approve a $93-million capital project for its share of the venture.
A decision is expected this spring.
Other wind farm developers have cried foul over the move, saying the utility shouldn’t be able to include the project in rates under what was a competitive bid process.
The wind farm will sell its electricity to Nova Scotia Power at a fixed price for 20 years under a contract awarded in August by the province’s renewable electricity administrator.
South Canoe is expected to produce enough electricity to power 32,000 homes – the equivalent of all the homes in Lunenburg County and western Hants County.
The project is actually two wind farms, each majority owned by the Bragg or Jodrey families, because of limits on project size.
South Canoe received provincial Environment Department approval in July.
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