The P.E.I. Energy Corporation is appealing a development permit approved by the Rural Municipality of Eastern Kings, saying it interferes with its proposed wind farm expansion.
The Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission held a public hearing on the issue Tuesday.
The municipality granted the permit to an Eastern Kings landowner, who plans to put up a two-bedroom building on his property in the community.
Lawyer Gordon MacKay, representing the P.E.I. Energy Corporation, told the hearing that Jeff Klein, who received the development permit, was “well aware” his application could impact the proposed locations for wind turbines for the province’s wind farm expansion on a site adjoining Klein’s property.
MacKay said the Rural Municipality of Eastern Kings “ought to have been” aware of the issue as well, but in testimony former Eastern Kings CAO and development officer Ron Coffin said he hadn’t considered how other properties would be affected by the permit.
The municipality’s development bylaw requires wind turbines be placed a minimum of 1,000 metres from any dwelling on a neighbouring property.
If Klein is allowed to build the structure and if the setback is enforced, it could require the P.E.I. Energy Corporation to find new locations for four of the seven proposed new turbines, a significant potential challenge for the $50-million project.
‘A cabin in the woods’
Klein’s lawyer, Lynn Murray, told the IRAC panel that at the time Klein received his permit, on Aug. 27, 2019, the province had not submitted an application to Eastern Kings council to build the wind farm.
Instead, the P.E.I. Energy Corporation had only provided what it called a “preliminary application” for the wind farm. Murray noted the municipality’s development bylaw makes no mention of preliminary applications.
The panel was told the actual permit application from the corporation was received Nov. 1.
A plan to build a wind farm in an area is not a “moratorium on any and all development,” Murray told the panel.
The P.E.I. Energy Corporation’s position is that Klein’s permit should be quashed because its approval did not follow proper process.
Permit issued, but former CAO cites ‘irregularities’
On Aug. 27, 2019 – the same day Klein applied for his permit – Coffin issued a permit for a “new building – 1,000 square feet,” according to documents submitted to IRAC as part of the appeal process.
The permit indicated Klein’s application had been “tentatively approved” pending compliance with regulations and municipal bylaws, and advised Klein he could begin work on the approved building.
But in testimony before IRAC Tuesday, Coffin said he was later made aware of “a number of irregularities” in Klein’s application by staff with the P.E.I. Energy Corporation.
Coffin emailed Klein asking him to submit an amended application.
Klein responded he had received notice his permit was being appealed, and said he would be seeking legal counsel.
Description of permit changed
An email Coffin received from Heather MacLeod with the P.E.I. Energy Corporation on Sept. 13 described the corporation’s position that “this application is not for a dwelling,” thus setbacks from wind turbines would not apply.
In the email, MacLeod also wrote Coffin was to “update” the brief summary of the permit listed on the province’s website “to clarify that this is not a residence, nor a dwelling,” something Coffin told the hearing he did.
According to that updated listing, the permit was for a “1,000 square-foot sleeping cabin, no well, no sewer / not a defined dwelling.” It wasn’t immediately clear how the permit had been described before the change.
Hilary Newman, the lawyer for the Rural Municipality of Eastern Kings, told the panel the municipality is not trying to justify the decision to provide Klein with a development permit – that the municipality concedes the application from Klein was incomplete, in that it did not include elevation drawings or a related permit allowing Klein to build a driveway off the adjoining provincial highway.
Klein is one of a number of Eastern Kings residents who signed a letter to council in June, expressing “great concern” that council appeared to be in a “headlong rush” to approve the wind farm expansion without enough information from the P.E.I. Energy Corporation.
The letter asked council to take no further action on the matter until a list of conditions had been met.
During the hearing Tuesday, Klein was described as a “non-participating landowner” with regards to the wind farm expansion, meaning he has not entered into a revenue-sharing agreement with the P.E.I. Energy Corporation and his land is already considered to be unavailable for placing wind turbines.
IRAC is expected to rule on two issues – whether the permit should have been approved in the first place, and what it will mean for the wind farm expansion if the building goes ahead.