CLEARVIEW TWP. – Shock waves are rippling through the region following news that the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) has given the green light to allow the construction of eight 137-metre (450 ft) wind turbines east of Stayner.
“It’s absolutely outrageous that the Kathleen Wynne government would approve this. All of us are in shock, those that fought against this,” said Jim Wilson, Simcoe-Grey Member of Provincial Parliament.
The wpd Canada Fairview Wind Project will be constructed on land south and north of County Rd. 91. According to Transport Canada the end of the Collingwood Regional Airport runway is 3.1 and 3.2 kilometres two of the northern turbines.
The airport, which is owned by the Town on Collingwood on 158 ha (392 acres) in Clearview, has fought the project from the start saying turbine height will affect flight paths and pose a danger to pilots in inclement weather.
“If there is a death of someone running into one of these turbines, I’m going to hold Kathleen Wynne accountable,” Wilson said.
Quoting former Collingwood Regional Airport board chair Charlie Tatham, Wilson said it’s not if someone will get killed, it’s when. “I agree with that sentiment. It’s a pilot safety and public safety issue.”
Mike Edwards, current chair of the Collingwood Regional Airport board, said, “To me it’s unfathomable. I’m really shocked.
“I can’t believe they would make a decision like that from the information we presented from a safety stand point and from an economic impact standpoint. It boggles my mind,” Edwards said.
The airport board is not against wind turbines and green energy, but it is against wind turbines near airports, where student pilots train and in Collingwood’s case the area is often beset by lake effect rain, snow and fog, making for challenging flying conditions without the turbines, said Edwards. The airport submitted its safety concerns to the ministry long ago.
In January, the Town of Collingwood and Clearview Township jointly submitted an economic impact study, prepared by Malone Givens Parson, showing the negative effects the wind turbines would have both on airport safety and to the region from the loss of business at the proposed Clearview Aviation Business Park, to be build immediately east of the airport.
“It was an excellent study that was very factual and explained the reasons why the wind turbines should not be located in our air space,” Edwards said.
The MOECC awarded the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) application Thursday, a day before a Feb. 12 court case between wpd Canada and the MOECC. Wpd Canada was taking the government to court because it submitted its REA in September, 2012, and had expected a decision by 2015.
Clearview fought and attained intervenor status at the case (which is cancelled) to protest the wind turbines.
“I am extremely disappointed that the Ministry of Environment has gone ahead in light of all the work we’ve done to show the side effects and how it will impact economic development in Clearview and the County of Simcoe,” said Clearview Mayor Chris Vanderkruys.
“It’s a project that the township was clearly against. The provincial government doesn’t listen at all. They do what they want. The fact that we had to fight for intervenor status is crazy,” Vandkerkruys added.
“However this happened between wpd and the government, they didn’t include us at all,” he added.
Shortly after the approval was grant, wpd Canada issued a press release stating, “We are pleased the ministry has approved the Fairview project.
“We’re hopeful we can begin construction in relatively short order, using competitively-price local labour and services as much as possible,” wrote spokesperson Kevin Surette.
Once constructed, Fairview will feed an estimated 39,838,000 kWh annually into the local electricity grid; equivalent to the average annual power usage of 2,276 homes.
The project has been approved, “subject to prescriptive conditions designed to ensure the safety of pilots who may fly into the Collingwood Regional Airport or Stayner Airfield,” it stated.
Regulations imposed by NAV Canada, Transport Canada and the MOECC will be implemented as required, it stated.
Surette added that Canada has an enviable record aviation safety record with a well-established process that will continue to ensure safety in aviation.
Approval of the project also includes conditions concerning noise and the environment, he wrote.
The Fairview project will be built on land owned by farmers John and Andrew Beattie.
In a statement sent to local officials and media Thursday afternoon, they wrote that airport industrial growth should go to the business park located near the Lake Simcoe Regional Airport in Oro-Medonte Township rather than take up agricultural land adjacent to the Collingwood airport.
Land zoned agricultural and environmental will have to be rezoned and an Official Plan amendment would have to passed by the County of Simcoe and that the County in following the Growth Plan for the Greater Horseshoe within the Places to Grow Act will find that the business park plans don’t fit within those polices, they wrote.
“In fact, we been told that such a zoning application would be dead in the water and could not stand up to an Ontario Municipal Board appeal if for some reason Simcoe approved it.
“The Growth Plan aims to, among other things, protect farmland. The previous council was on records as supporting agriculture, but it’s unclear to us how the present council’s intention to remove (89 ha) 220 acres of agricultural land achieves this,” they wrote.
Vanderkruys said the 107-hectare aviation park land has been in the Official Plan for industrial related land for about 10 years and that about 30 acres (12 ha) of the land is not agricultural but zoned environmental.
wpd Canada is based in Mississauga and is owned by a German company that builds green energy projects in 18 countries around the world.
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