By Barb McKay
A Kincardine resident says the municipality has essentially gagged itself by agreeing to the terms in a development agreement with SP Armow Wind.
Karen Breitbach told Kincardine council last Wednesday that it disrespected the residents who live within the Armow Wind Project area by not informing them about the contents of the agreement prior to signing it.
“It is the opinion of several residents from whom I have had feedback on this matter, and on their behalf I would state that we feel that council has effectively gagged itself similar to clauses restricting certain actions of participating landowners,” she said in a submission to council.
Breitbach said the agreement restricts the municipality from enacting a bylaw that would restrict SP Armow Wind’s operations, and doing so could result in a court appointed arbitrator.
“While not the same as a threat of a lawsuit,” she said, “council nonetheless has been placed in a conflict of interest between adhering to the SP Armow Wind agreement and considering first and foremost the well-being of its citizens.”
A lengthy response to questions posed in letter from Breitbach was presented by municipal staff last Wednesday and deputy mayor Anne Eadie said she found the information was thorough.
“People keep forgetting that the province, under the Green Energy Act, took away our authority in terms of wind farms,” she said. “But even though we had no authority we asked for four key concessions and, although we didn’t get everything, we did get key concessions that are binding.”
Eadie said the development agreement requires SP Armow Wind to respect the municipality’s buffer zones around areas that are earmarked for future development and growth. In addition, low-voltage collector lines located on private property carrying electricity from the project's wind turbines will be buried.
“For me, if you are weighing your gains it is never perfect,” Eadie said. “But if you weigh your gains against what may come in the future, I think we made solid gains. Overall, I decided the gains we had are better than what we could be losing (by not having the agreement).”
The report addressed concerns that Kincardine’s membership on the Multi-Municipal Wind Turbine Working Group (MMWTWG). According to staff, “With respect to the MMWTWG and Kincardine’s membership in the group, this should not be an issue relative to the Armow Wind agreement. As set out in the newly-revised Terms of Reference for the group, the purpose is to ‘draw together representatives from area municipalities to share and discuss and advocate best practices and other means to address mutual concerns regarding proposals to locate and install industrial/commercial wind generation facilities’. Nothing in this statement of purpose reflects the substance of the above-reference provisions of the Armow Wind agreement.”
Councillor Jacqueline Faubert, who had asked for the report back to council from staff addressing her questions and those from Breitbach, said she wished more information had been shared with the community prior to the agreement being signed.
“There are questions coming across my desk and I would like to confidently say what the answers are,” she said.
Faubert said she local organizations believed that they would benefit from an SP Armow Wind community fund, but now the municipality has control over how the funds will be spent, subject to consultation with SP Armow Wind. As well, she said, the municipality should be confident that the project won’t impact the municipal airport before it spends money to expand it.
Breitbach asked if the Armow Wind Project would increase the municipality’s insurance premiums at the airport. CAO Murray Clarke said the municipality has no authority over airport safety; it is federally-regulated. He said new instrument approaches for the airport were developed by NAV
Mayor Larry Kraemer explained that the municipality’s insurance for the airport is only affected if an accident or damage to a plane is cause by the airport itself.
Councillor Candy Hewitt said she expects there will be further discussions about the agreement to make sure questions are answered.
“Rather than fighting each other I think we can join together and make the best of things.”