An eight-turbine wind energy project slated for lands nearby the Collingwood Regional Airport has been given the green light by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) despite opposition by local municipalities and the developer of an aviation business park.
The MOECC posted its decision in favour of WPD Canada’s Fairview Wind Project on Thursday.
The announcement caught Clearview Township officials off-guard. Township CAO Stephen Sage said the courts had only just given standing to Collingwood and Clearview in the last week.
“We’re extremely disappointed, particularly with respect to the process,” Sage told Simcoe.com. “We felt as though everything was above-board, and then the ministry issues a permit this morning. Talk about disheartening – we spent time, effort, taxpayers’ money.
“It’s almost as though they’ve pulled the rug out from underneath us.”
Sage said he will be conferring with the municipality’s lawyers to determine if there is any legal recourse.
The municipality declared itself an ‘unwilling host’ for wind energy projects in 2013.
“We [Clearview Township] are extremely disappointed that the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change has granted WPD Canada a Renewable Energy Approval for the Fairview Wind Project” stated Clearview Township Mayor Christopher Vanderkruys in a news release. “Clearview Township has clearly expressed an unwillingness to host the Fairview Wind Project … [and] significant resources and time have been invested into ensuring that the project would not be approved.”
WPD issued a new release shortly after the MOECC announced its approval of the project.
“We’re pleased the ministry has approved the Fairview project,” said WPD spokesperson, Kevin Surette, in the news release. “We’re hopeful we can begin construction in relatively short order, using competitively-priced local labour and services as much as possible.”
The ministry’s requirement is the project slated for an area around County Road 91 and Fairgrounds Road be constructed and operational within three years.
The project has come under fire from Clearview Township and the Town of Collingwood, as both municipalities say the 500-foot-tall turbines could prove detrimental to the regional airport owned by Collingwood.
At least two of the eight turbines are considered to be within a 2.1-kilometre radius of the airport. An economic impact study prepared at the behest of the two municipalities claimed the turbines would be “fatal” to the growth of the airport.
The growth the study referred to was a proposal by the Clearview Aviation Business Park for development on lands next to the airport. Genesis Flight Centre also spoke out in opposition to the wind turbines.
WPD’s own study examining the impact to the airport stated the presence of the turbines would have a very minimal effect on the airport. A peer-review by Altus Group of WPD’s study prepared for the municipalities, and provided to Simcoe.com by WPD, stated the analysis by the municipalities’ consultant “is not an accurate or reasonable evaluation of the potential economic impacts of the proposed wind turbine project.”
Altus’ report stated the study by Malone Givens Parson overestimated the role of the airport in the local economy, and only “assumes” that the official plan amendment for the business park would be approved. The amendment for the business park is currently under review by County of Simcoe planning staff.
Altus’ review pointed out the turbine project was submitted to the province in 2012, and the proponents of the business park made the decision to purchase the land in mid-2014.
“The wind turbine application was not fatal to the decision … in 2014 to announce their proposal for development of a business park on the east side of the airport, or their decision to invest in applications for the official plan amendment, zoning by-law amendment and subdivision approval required to permit development of the proposed business park,” stated the peer review.
In a news release from Clearview Aviation Business Park, company principal Remo Niceforo expressed his disappointment in the decision.
“In the coming days we will focus our efforts on establishing a reasonable path forward in conjunction with our municipal partners, while fully exploring the implications of this most unfortunate decision,” he stated in the release. “There should be no confusion on the part of our neighbours and fellow residents; both Clearview and Collingwood councils have demonstrated true leadership in the defense of their communities and respective economies, and for that we are grateful.”
As part of the ministry’s approval of WPD’s renewable energy application, the province has imposed conditions intended to ensure the safety of pilots flying into both the Collingwood Regional Airport, and the privately-owned Stayner Aerodrome.
Included in the conditions set by the MOECC is a requirement for WPD to retain an independent aeronautical consultant to recommend mitigation measures that will enable the two facilities to “fulfill their duties related to safety.”
That wasn’t good enough, however, for Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson, who also voiced his disapproval with the project getting the OK.
“This is absolutely outrageous that the government would do something like this,” Wilson stated in a news release. “Why anyone in their right mind would approve eight 500-foot turbines near the Collingwood airport and Stayner is beyond me.
“Let me tell you, if one life is lost, I’ll personally hold Premier Wynne accountable.”
WPD had taken the province to court in order to get a decision, since the province had waited nearly two years after the MOECC had determined its application complete; a hearing was scheduled for Friday.
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