The County of Simcoe has thrown its weight behind Collingwood and Clearview Township in the fight against a wind turbine project.
At its Feb. 25 meeting, county council approved a resolution to file a notice of appeal the the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change’s approval of WPD Canada’s Renewable Energy Approval application for the Fairview Wind Project.
The ministry approved the project on Feb. 11, one day before a court date between WPD and the ministry.
Both Collingwood and Clearview are have filed appeals to the decision. Collingwood’s appeal is based on a threat to human safety because of the proximity of the turbines to the Collingwood Regional Airport.
The REA does include conditions to ensure aviation safety, including that WPD hire an independent aeronautical consultant to recommend mitigation measures that should be put in place.
Simcoe County warden Gerry Marshall said the appeal is about getting the voice of the county and area municipalities heard on the issue.
“There have been a lot of appeals over wind turbines over the years and not too many of those appeals have been successful,” acknowledged Simcoe County warden Gerry Marshall. “History tells us it’s an uphill battle, but nonetheless, we need to speak up and address our concerns.”
Marshall said there are issues beyond the health and safety of the airport he hopes can be raised.
“The province needs to be aware of the benefits of that airport to us,” Marshall said, noting, for example, air ambulance flies in and out of the regional airport. It’s also an alternate in an emergency if the Lake Simcoe Regional Airport is shut down.
“All of a sudden the Collingwood airport becomes our west side access in a state of emergency,” he said.
The economic benefits, said Marshall, “are pretty obvious.
“There is some serious economic interest into the airport area, and that’s all at risk because of the turbine decision,” he said.
WPD Canada, through a peer review of an economic impact study completed by the Town of Collingwood and Clearview Township, has dismissed any negative impact to the airport by the presence of the turbines.
The Altus Group concluded in its peer review the analysis prepared for Collingwood and Clearview is “not an accurate or reasonable evaluation of the potential economic impacts,” stated WPD spokesperson Kevin Surette.
Altus also pointed out that almost all the economic impacts identified in the analysis are related to the business park proposal, and the official plan amendment required for the business park to proceed does not conform with the policies of the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe as required by the Places to Grow Act. The peer review also mentions the analysis doesn’t assess the reasonableness of the business expansion estimates put forward, especially given the close proximity of the Lake Simcoe Regional Airport and its ongoing efforts to attract business.
Marshall, however, challenges the conclusions of the peer review.
“As a municipal government, we think long before we think short – where do you want to be in 40 years and what steps do you need to take to get there, and we’d better be prepared to understand what assets exist today that we need to leverage to deliver what we wish in the future,” he said. “The airport … is critical to economic development, it’s critical to our path forward, and I would argue that if nothing else, it’s critical in terms of health care, in terms of serving our citizens if there was ever any kind of disaster.
“There’s many viable reasons for this airport to exist and to thrive. From my perspective, we have a pretty large province, and to impose these turbines in and around the airport, I struggle to understand why that could be.”
Marshall also noted while there will be an expense to appealing the decision, it is a necessary cost.
“It is in the best interests of the taxpayers that we step up and have this conversation,” he said. “There’s a lot of benefit for our citizens to have that conversation go on, and with the three (municipalities) engaging in that, we can share resources such as the cost of legal advice.
“We’ll keep the costs at a minimum, but we need to step up and step into this conversation and follow the appeal process. We’d be remiss if we didn’t engage.”
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