LOYALIST TOWNSHIP – A township council wants to have a say in the planning process of green energy projects, and it has now passed a motion asking for such.
“We believe that the true planning authority should be revested with the municipality and that’s what we’ve asked for in this motion,” said Loyalist Township Deputy Mayor Ric Bresee.
“We’ve asked for a meeting with the ministers (of municipal affairs and housing and energy) and the premier to further express that the planning authority should be returned to the municipality.”
The motion, passed at Monday evening’s council meeting, requests that Premier Kathleen Wynne and either Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli or Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Linda Jeffrey meet with council members.
The motion is not intended to simply be a symbolic gesture, Bresee said.
“We have been very concerned for a long time, but this is our, I’ll say, strongest message to the province that it is getting to the point where we have to have a direct, one-on-one to express this desire, I would say this right, that we were elected to make the decisions with regard to local planning,” he explained.
It’s the strongest, Bresee said, because in the past, council has usually either supported another municipality’s motion or called for a moratorium.
The township could be home to a number of alternative energy projects if they are approved, including the controversial and divisive wind energy project on Amherst Island and some solar energy parks.
Ontario’s Green Energy Act trumps the municipality when it comes to planning, Bresee feels, but the province doesn’t know residents the way council does.
“This is a sincere request to return that authority,” said Bresee, who has been a member of Loyalist Township council for the past 13 years.
“We know the people that are banging on our doors, the people that are standing at our council meetings, and we’re elected to represent them, but our ability to represent them on this issue has been gutted.”
It’s no coincidence that the motion comes at a time of transition in the minority government, Bresee said, as Wynne takes over from Dalton McGuinty.
“We saw an opportunity that we believe will be received at the provincial level,” he said.
A few years ago, when the township was drafting its official plan, it tried to incorporate some stipulations, such as setback distances, for green energy projects.
Those stipulations were rejected by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Bresee said.
“We’ve had a lot of input over the last few years,” he said.
“Of course, this has been a rather hot issue around our municipality, not just the wind turbines on Amherst Island.”
In the case of the Amherst Island project, the township has been forwarding all of its concerns, and those of its residents, to both the province and Algonquin Power, which owns the project and has held the requisite public meetings.
There is a sense, Bresee said, that the company is doing what it is required to do and no more.
“There has been a lot of concern about how effective that public meeting and response has been,” he said.
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