KAWARTHA LAKES – Mayor Ric McGee and Ward 16 Coun. Heather Stauble have reacted strongly to a wpd Canada complaint that the city is refusing to enter into discussions on the placement of collector lines for the Sumac Ridge wind farm.
In a press release issued last Wednesday, wpd Canada said the city’s land management committee refusal could force the company to ask the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) to settle the matter.
Wpd Canada is looking to build a portion of their proposed electrical collector line underground on an unassumed road near the project site. The OEB is the independent Crown corporation tasked with regulating the province’s electricity and natural gas sectors.
“We had hoped to work with the City of Kawartha Lakes on this issue in a cooperative setting, and it is unfortunate that it has come to this point,” wpd Canada president Ian MacRae said. “If the city would reconsider, it would avoid the necessity of bringing the matter to the OEB. This can be a costly method to resolve the issue.”
However, McGee told The Post on Thursday “it is unfortunate that wpd has resorted to this type of tactic. The residents affected by these industrial wind turbine developments and council have been very clear. Kawartha Lakes is not a willing host.”
Stauble added “I think they’re jumping the gun. We need to wait for the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) review before assuming approval.”
She noted the comment period had only closed on May 20 and there will now be a six-month technical review by the MOE. She said the community made more than 2,500 submissions to the environmental registry, some incredibly well-researched.
She maintains there were a lot of errors in the reports; the consultants cited three meetings and the community only two; and a lack of health expertise.
Director of development services Ron Taylor confirmed the committee had advised wpd that the application was premature. “wpd has not received any Renewable Energy Approval (REA) from the province to date. The city has since been in receipt of follow-up correspondence from wpd challenging the city’s position, dated May 22, 2013. We have referred this correspondence to our solicitor to obtain a legal opinion.
City council has not reviewed this specific road occupation request. City council did, through the REA process, recommend to the province that the project application be refused. The application remains under review by the province.
wpd Canada said in its release that it has sought its own legal advice and “simply put, the city cannot refuse to process wpd’s permit application because council is opposed to the project. The city has a duty to process the application in good faith as it would any other permit application. The refusal to do so is also inconsistent with provincial law that provides wpd with a right to access Gray Road for the purpose of constructing a collector line for the project.”
But Stauble said Gray Rd. in on the Oak Ridges Moraine and is lined with mature woodland that contains endangered species.
However, wpd Canada maintains that provincial legislation gives electricity distributors the ability to access any public street or highway to install infrastructure without requiring the approval of the municipality but it is customary for municipalities and developers to agree upon the location.
It said that should a disagreement on the location of the infrastructure arise, either party may apply to the OEB to have the location determined by the board.
“It is possible that the City of Kawartha Lakes could be responsible to cover wpd’s costs for the OEB hearing, as well as their own.”
They sited a case in Grey Highlands.
“If our REA application is granted, we intend to move forward with the construction phase of the project,” MacRae said. “We still want, and hope to work with the city to obtain the permits we need, but we need to consider all of our options to move our project forward.”
wpd Canada has requested that the matter be brought before council at its next meeting and that council direct staff to process wpd’s application.
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