An eight-turbine wind energy project has been given the green light by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.
The MOECC posted its decision in favour of WPD Canada’s Fairview Wind Project on Thursday.
“We’re pleased the ministry has approved the Fairview project,” said WPD spokesperson, Kevin Surette, in a news release issued Thursday afternoon. “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 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 project 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.
That was in light of the Clearview Aviation Business Park (CABP) proposal for land next to the airport, as well as the anticipated impact to the existing Genesis Flight Centre.
The company’s own study examining the impact to the airport found the presence of the turbines would have a very minimal effect on the airport. A peer-review by Altus Group of the 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 CABP would be approved. The OPA 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.
A spokesperson for CABP has not yet responded to a request for comment.
As part of the ministry’s OK of WPD’s Renewable Energy Approval 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.”
WPD had taken the province to court in order to get a decision, after it had waited nearly two years after the MOECC had determined its application ‘complete’; a hearing was scheduled for Friday.
Thursday’s 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.
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