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Peace River Regional District mulls new zoning rules for wind farms

The Peace River Regional District is looking at establishing a new category of zoning for wind farms that would come with a formal review process for projects too small for a provincial environmental assessment.

A report produced by General Manager of Development Services Bruce Simmard for consideration at a Jan. 14 committee of the whole meeting, shows that a number of applications for wind farms on PRRD lands have been received for small-scale wind projects.

“Inquiries from industry indicate that many more may also come forward,” Simmard writes in his report.

The report provides a brief outline of a process that will require wind farm proponents to provide local governments and the PRRD with a detailed outline of how the development may impact the local area. This will serve as a substitute when a provincial assessment is not required.

The need for a wind farm-specific zoning classification stems from three projects that were proposed in March 2015. These projects on private lands are not permitted under current zoning regulations. Applications for rezoning to allow the wind farms were submitted in October.

In his report, Simmard notes that instead of rezoning land for wind farm use, a new zoning classification should be created that would include a review process that will weigh anticipated impact of the proposed development on the surrounding community.

Once considered at Thursday’s meeting, recommendations will move forward to the board of directors for further consideration.

Residents opposed to Montney wind project

In a separate agenda item for the Jan. 14 meeting, a group of citizens in Montney are voicing their opposition to wind farms in their area.

In November, about 130 people crammed into the Montney Recreation Hall to voice concerns about a wind energy project proposed by Renewable Energy Systems Canada.

The gathering was organized by Delbert Benterud.

If approved, the project would see a maximum of seven turbines built northeast of Charlie Lake.

In a handwritten letter to the PRRD dated Nov. 23, Rebbecca J. Schular of 254 road says the wind turbines would negatively impact her attempts to “live a better life” in the country.

“I do not wish to have to look out my front window at a windmill,” she wrote. “I know this will have a negative affect on the value of my land if ever I decide to try and sell.”

Schular is also concerned the turbines will decrease the number of wildlife in the area, another reason she chose to live in the country, she says.

Other concerns expressed by the group include visual impacts, height restrictions and future removal of the structures.

The proposed wind farm-specific zoning would not impose restrictions on the height of wind turbines, but would set minimum distances between the turbines and housing.

Among the areas that will be evaluated in the proposed approval process for such projects would be the community impact on local infrastructure, traffic patterns, public facilities like parks and schools, community services and the natural surrounding environment.