County council rezones land for one ABO wind turbine, but will hold public hearing before approving two more turbine locations
Vulcan County council has rezoned a piece of land for a wind turbine that’s part of the ABO Wind’s 500-megawatt project in the Lomond area, but council will hear from the public before rezoning another two wind turbine locations.
Under provincial legislation, Vulcan County has to rezone three pieces of land for the wind turbines after the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) approved the entire Buffalo Plains wind farm in February, including the land locations for the three turbines presented to County council on June 15.
Council rezoned one piece of land June 15 to rural general from reservoir vicinity, and the other two properties are to be rezoned to rural general from urban fringe.
In September, the County’s Municipal Planning Commission had approved 81 of the 83 turbine locations for ABO’s 514.6-megawatt Buffalo Plains Wind Farm, which consists of 83 wind turbines. A separate development permit was approved for each turbine.
The two turbines in Vulcan County’s urban fringe with the Village of Lomond did not come before the MPC because they had urban fringe zoning, said Anne Erickson, the County’s manager of development services.
Administration voided a development permit for the third site, located roughly 1.6 kilometres from McGregor Reservoir, after realizing it was zoned reservoir vicinity.
“I see this one as more of a technicality,” said Reeve Jason Schneider of rezoning the land near McGregor Reservoir. “I think we’d be more than happy to make those changes and fix it.”
But Schneider did raise issues with the approval process for the two turbine locations within the urban fringe.
“I think that’s one of the weaknesses of the application process, is (ABO) was trying to do two separate approvals at the same time,” said Schneider. “Ideally, in previous ones, it would have been you get your AUC approval and then you go for your development permits.”
That way, the County can see what the AUC did and carry on from there, he said.
“The problem is, we made our decision before the AUC made its decision, and the AUC said ‘this is the decision we made,’ and now ours doesn’t jive with theirs,” said the reeve, adding the County was being asked to change its decision to line up with the AUC’s.
Schneider said he was “hung up” on County council having to rezone the properties so that the AUC’s decision “doesn’t look like it infringes on our urban fringe.”
“Ultimately, I know they’ve got confirmation to build them,” he said. “I just don’t see why we need to then rezone it so it makes it look like they didn’t infringe on us.”
Schneider added it’s a “stupid setup.”
“Here, you get to choose what’s best for your ratepayers as long as it completely agrees with what we just told you to do,” he said.
A public hearing is to be held July 13 on the two wind tower locations within the urban fringe
Erickson didn’t see any issues with council holding public hearings.
“I don’t think that’s doing anything in error to have a public hearing,” she said, adding legislation would still require the County to approve the bylaws.
Schneider said a public hearing would give people “an opportunity to voice their displeasure that an agreed-on exclusion zone wasn’t respected by a provincial body.”
After each property is rezoned, development permits will now be required for each tower.
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