SANDY POINT, NS – A number of citizens in the Municipality of Shelburne are raising concerns and questions about a proposed wind farm for Sandy Point.
At the top of the list is why did Shelburne Municipal Council write a letter of support for the proposed project without consulting with area residents?
“Community Wind Farms Inc. has proposed a large-scale wind farm for the land between Sandy Point, Jordan Bay, and Jordan Ferry. Although our local government claim that the community supports this project, they failed to ask us!” reads the website Stop Sandy Point Wind. “We are here to let them and everyone else know that we stand firmly against it!”
The proposed project is still in the preliminary stages. Nova Scotia Power has yet to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP), but one is expected to be issued by end of the year. “The RFP will invite windfarm developers to present projects located anywhere in Nova Scotia to participate in the competitive tender. It is anticipated that Community Wind and ABO Wind will submit a tender to the RFP,” reads a project update on the municipality’s website.
Community Wind Farms has been conducting preliminary work on the proposed project for a year or so. In June, they asked the municipality if it would write a letter of support of the project to Nova Scotia Power, which the municipality did.
“To date, this company has reached out to the municipality to ensure that this project adheres to the municipality’s by-laws, have made a public presentation to council and has been in contact with several property owners. We have been advised that they have received strong support from the landowner base and in general have received positive comments from the public,” reads the letter, in part, signed by Warden Penny Smith.
“They have stated they are committed to an extensive public engagement process that would involve public information sessions to inform residents of the proposed project and to address any questions and concerns raised. Their level of commitment to inform and engage the community is one of the reasons the municipality is in support of this wind energy project.”
Not everyone agrees there has been enough dialogue.
“Really, there has been no public meeting on this subject,” says Jordan Ferry resident David Huddleston.
Community Wind Farms did hold an open house on Sept. 16 at the Sandy Point Community Centre, but it wasn’t a public presentation type of meeting with questions and answers, he says.
Even though opponents of the project are being assured there will be opportunities for input through the Environmental Assessment (EA) process should the project get that far, Huddleston said people are skeptical.
“We’re being assured of that, but the start of it all is not very encouraging. It appears to be getting pushed without consultation so naturally an atmosphere of mistrust has been already firmly established and it’s a divisive issue in the community,” Huddleston says. “Potentially the notion that a process will somehow change the atmosphere and whoever does the EA will be consulting people any more than the proponents has or the council has, it’s not something people want to jump into and believe.”
“One of the major issues here is getting questions answered, although in theory there is an avenue for doing that but they are not getting answered,” he says.
A public meeting was scheduled to be held on Oct. 3 at the Sandy Point Community Centre. The purpose of the meeting was to collect questions from the public, organize and present them to those who have answers, including Community Wind Farms, Nova Scotia Mines and Resources and municipal council, Huddleston says.
Not everyone is opposed to the proposed wind farm. “Some couldn’t care less, some will benefit,” says Huddleston.
But there are those who feel there hasn’t been enough info provided.
“My biggest beef is there has been such little information disseminated about this huge wind farm,” says former municipal councillor and Jordan Ferry resident Norman Wallet.
“The Municipality of Shelburne keeps stonewalling and not working with citizens to find out information… The municipality is not telling residents that this letter of support gets the proponent to the initial stage of the RFP. No engagement, no consultation. The municipality has answered none of my emails,” he says. “The municipality is trying to ram this 80 MW project through with as little information and consultation as possible.”
Municipality considers benefits
In its defence, the municipality said in a Sept. 24 press release there were a number of primary factors that led to the decision to write the letter of support.
“In 2010, the Municipality of the District of Shelburne adopted an Integrated Community Sustainability Plan (ICSP) after conducting comprehensive public engagement with its residents, resulting in a vision and goals for the municipality for the next 20 years, including the following guiding principle pertaining to renewable energy: ‘Our residents recognize the potential renewable energy has to enhance our local economy, and to benefit from this opportunity we need to make sure we identify and encourage development of renewable energy projects and create a facilitative policy environment for these projects.’”
“In accordance with the guiding principle, on Oct. 26, 2015, council implemented one of the recommended actions, which was to update and approve its Municipal Planning Strategy and Land Use Bylaw (L101). This action was to provide the municipal framework by which renewable energy developers would have to adhere,” the municipality’s release states. “The bylaw provides planning guidelines for various sizes of developments, including utility projects greater than two megawatts. It was these primary factors in which council made the decision to provide a letter of support for the proposed wind farm project in Sandy Point.”
Huddleston says the decision to write the letter makes “sort of an intellectual leap between the general plan to endorsing a very specific proposal for wind turbines on this peninsula.”
“There are people living all around it and there is a concern about the destruction of quality of life,” he says.
As of the end of September, 176 people had signed a petition opposing the proposed wind farm.
In March, Bill MacLean, president of Community Wind Farms Inc., told Saltwire and the Tri-County Vanguard that work was underway for the potential development of a 50-megawatt, 10-turbine wind farm in Sandy Point, which would be located on the on the “inner spine of the Sandy Point peninsula.”
“We have wind studies going on there now and are talking to property owners. We’ve engaged an environmental company to conduct a year-long study,” he said at the time. The nearest residence, he said at the time, was 1,300 metres away. “We’re trying to stay away from houses and the impact on local residents,” he said in an interview at that time.
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