An attempt to win municipal backing for a major wind turbine farm north of London has been voted down despite an offer of millions of dollars for a community fund that could be used for everything from social events to lowering property taxes.
Southgate Township near Mount Forest had been in discussions with Samsung for months for two possible renewable energy projects – a 120 megawatt wind farm and a 50 megawatt solar energy project.
A month ago Southgate council passed a resolution stating it would consider declaring itself a “willing host” for the projects if a satisfactory agreement could be reached for a community benefit agreement.
A draft agreement from Samsung offered $5.1 million over 20 years in exchange for council’s backing.
But Wednesday night Southgate council voted to go in the opposite direction and passed a resolution declaring itself an “unwilling host” for industrial wind farm developments.
Mayor Brian Milne, who initiated the motion, said it had become clear the wind farm proposal was splitting the rural community.
“I could see this was going nowhere in terms of the community,” Milne said Thursday.
Provisions that some in the community wanted, such as increased setbacks from homes for the wind turbines, were not acceptable to Samsung, he said, because it would force them to scale the project back to the point it wouldn’t be viable.
“Rather than drag this out and split the community more than it already was, I thought let’s bring it to a halt,” Milne said.
While there was strong local opposition from some to the wind farm proposal, Milne said people he questioned didn’t have the same negative view of a solar farm.
A statement released by Samsung Thursday said the company was disappointed with the decision and believes the Southgate project has many benefits it can bring to the local area.
“Samsung and Pattern have a strong record of working with communities during the project development process. We will work with the council to address their concerns and also look forward to working with the community on a potential partnership,” said the statement by KJ Kim, senior vice president, Samsung C&T.
Samsung noted its proposed solar farm project was not part of council’s resolution and the status of the project has not changed.
Milne said he is angry at the province for giving the township the ability to green light the wind farm by passing a “willing host” resolution, but not any other controls such as site plan approvals.
“It was just enough authority to be the bad guys. If the province wants to play this game, either keep the whole damn thing in Toronto or give me the whole project. Let me manage the thing for the benefit of the community,” said Milne, who is also Warden of Grey County.
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