COLLINGWOOD – Town council has officially signalled its opposition to wind turbines being sited near the local airport.
On Monday night, councillors approved a motion to voice the town’s opposition to wpd Canada’s application to erect four 500-foot-tall wind turbines within four kilometres of the facility – the so-called ‘outer surface’ of the airport.
wpd Canada’s application was posted to the Environmental Registry in early December. The public has until Feb. 1 to provide comment.
Regional airport chair Charlie Tatham has stated on several occasions – most recently in the last Friday’s edition of the Enterprise-Bulletin – the siting of four of the eight turbines proposed by wpd for the company’s Fairview Wind Project in Clearview Township could negatively affect the airport and its operations.
The company’s aviation expert has claimed the effect of the turbines’ locations on the airport would be minimal, only affecting a handful of flights.
That hasn’t been satisfactory to either the airport board, or the municipality, which with Monday night’s motion, has officially lodged its concern with the Ministry of Environment.
The motion suggests moving the siting for the proposed four turbines further away from the facility to “significantly reduce the negative impacts to the airport.”
“This isn’t whether or not we like the turbines, it’s about the safety of the airport,” noted Councillor Mike Edwards, one of council’s two representatives on the Collingwood Regional Airport Board.
The motion passed by council also states there has been “no appropriate consultation” by wpd with the municipality or the airport services board, and the company has “produced an inadequate assessment of the negative environmental impacts that may result from engaging in the Fairview Wind Farm in general.”
“I’ve been very disappointed (wpd) hasn’t approached us at all, or the airport board,” said Deputy-mayor Rick Lloyd, council’s other rep on the airport board. “This isn’t a motion against wind turbines, it’s a motion for public safety.
“If a farmer tried to put up a grain silo (near the airport), he wouldn’t be allowed,” he said.
Council sets strategic direction
Council has its roadmap for the next several months laid out.
On Monday night, councillors gave their official approval to a set of priorities it initially identified during a strategic planning session in December. At the top of the list is a focus on economic development, as the town prepares to put in motion plans to bring several groups under one roof in order to deliver economic development programs.
It would include the Small Business Enterprise Centre, the Centre for Business and Economic Development, Downtown Collingwood BIA, the Collingwood Chamber of Commerce, and the Georgian Triangle Tourist Association. While those groups would continue to operate independently, the goal – as envisaged by Councillor Kevin Lloyd – would be to combine the collective resources of the group to provide one-stop shopping for local business, and businesses interested in coming to the area.
Other priorities identified by council at its session in December include governance and organizational reviews, and the development of a strategic financial plan – which would require hiring an additional staff member for the treasury department.
Within those priorities, as outlined by CAO John Brown, there are several steps to undertake in order to see some projects come to completion, likely by late spring. Council will also step back from its original contract with KPMG to undertake an administrative review; Brown, whose expertise lies in much of what KPMG would do, says the company would still be available to consult with.
“They’re happy to provide a lower level of service,” said Brown.
Deputy-mayor Rick Lloyd said his priority was the financial plan, and seeing another staff member in place to deal with the workload.
“We’ve had the position on the books (to be hired) for the last three years,” said Lloyd. “We have to be able to keep up with the workload, and we need a strategic plan for finances for the future.
Downtown starts to review laneway revamp
Collingwood councillors got a first look at a plan to revamp laneways in the downtown, turning them from otherwise drab and uninviting places into pedestrian-friendly venues with shopping and art.
Consultant David Wood provided council with an overview of the project, which looks at the possibilities for the north-south laneways that run behind the businesses on either side of Hurontario, as well as the connecting pedestrian laneways that connect Hurontario to the side streets and off-street parking to the east and west.
The project is a continuation of the downtown revitalization project. The plan is to develop a project to rehabilitate the pedestrian walkway which runs from the parking lot behind the Eddie Bush Memorial Arena to Hurontario, between Blue Mountain Music and the Northwoods.
Eventually, said Wood, the goal is to carry the work on to other laneways – though the municipality will need to address that some lanes are privately-owned, noting there are already existing movement patterns in the downtown that make good use of those laneways. “They are clearly in the public realm and we have an obligation to make them safe, clear, and engaging,” he said.
He also pointed out the laneways provide opportunities for social interaction and human expression through art, culture, and music, as well as new retail opportunities where rents would be less than what’s commanded for main street commercial space.
Downtown Collingwood rep Doug Snider says the BIA is looking at ‘low-budget’ production for the walkway that’s being considered for a revamp,and BIA chair Bradley Green says the organization may have a budget of $15,000-to-$20,000.
A draft concept for the walkway could be coming to the council table in the next month.
PRC grants approved – for now
More than 20 groups will take a share of $50,000 in grants from the Parks, Recreation and Culture department, but some councillors would like to re-examine the practice of the town handing out money to community organizations.
An ad hoc committee of the PRC committee reviews applications from community groups on a regular basis; groups cover the gamut of programs, including culture, recreation, and youth programming.
But some council members questioned whether that’s something the municipality should be involved with.
“We’re under a tremendous pressure to keep our budget as low as we can,” said Councillor Kevin Lloyd, noting he’d like to see the program discussed during budget time.
Councillor Ian Chadwick also raised a concern, noting he wanted more information on the groups that were applying, and whether their funding requests met with council’s strategic goals.
He was also concerned council only received the list of groups that were successful in getting funding, and didn’t get information on who was turned down, and why.
“If (the successful groups) are helping to meet our goals… I don’t want us working at odds, or not doing things in a cooperative way,” he said. “I feel like I’m making a decision in a void, not knowing why some groups (received money) and not knowing who got turned down.”
Deputy-mayor Rick Lloyd said it was important that council ‘reaffirm’ its position on the funding program, noting it provides seed money to groups trying to get community programming off the ground.
“There are programs there that we couldn’t afford to do if the municipality had to do it, that would cost us far more than $50,000 if we did it ourselves,” he said.
Warranty work on Centennial Pool
Ongoing work to fix building deficiencies at the Centennial Aquatic Facility won’t affect operations, says the director of Parks, Recreation and Culture.
Marta Proctor, in an interview with the Enterprise-Bulletin after Monday night’s council meeting, acknowledged builder BLT and its sub-contractors were working away to fix some of the issues that have cropped up since the facility opened in August.
“We’re working through the warranty items,” said Proctor, adding that the facility would stay open during the work. “We’re working around things to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Issues that have cropped up include the floor tiling, and humidity levels.
“There’s a lot that has already been resolved,” said Proctor, adding the companies involved have been “very responsive… to making corrections.
“Like any new facility, we’re working through the deficiencies.”
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