Eastern Kings Mayor Grace Cameron and Councillor Bernadette McInnis declared a conflict of interest at last Tuesday evening’s meeting where the proposed wind farm was the only item on the agenda.
Coun McInnis owns land in the area where PEI Energy Corp is proposing to build the 30 MW wind farm and Mayor Cameron has relatives who own land there.
The move was prompted by resident Don Humphrey who reminded council of the perceived or real conflict as discussions continued with PEIEC
“This is, or may appear, to be a conflict of interest as there may appear to be pecuniary benefits to be realized from such land holdings,” Mr Humphrey stated in a letter to council.
Mayor Cameron read a prepared statement before leaving the meeting which read in part, “I will now remove myself from further discussion on the wind turbine matter unless and until it is definitively clear that neither of my relatives will have any financial gain from this development.”
Heather MacLeod, manager of energy assets with PEIEC, fielded questions from both councillors and a few of the more than 30 residents in attendance at the third meeting held in the community since January where the proposed wind farm has been the main topic of discussion. No definitive plans for moving forward have been made.
“How long is the PEIEC going to wait for a positive response from Eastern Kings?” Mr Humphrey said.
“We can’t wait a long time,” Ms MacLeod said. “I propose we come with a preliminary development permit application with the understanding that additional materials would be forthcoming.
“We do not have all the information required in your bylaws to put a full move ahead stamp of approval on it and we will not for some time, but we would like to proceed in good faith.”
Fred Cheverie, coordinator of the Souris and Area Branch of the PEI Wildlife Federation wanted assurances that any infrastructure would not interfere with the community’s 60 metre buffer zones, as East Lake Creek runs through the middle of the proposed area.
Ms MacLeod said all environmental layovers would be honoured.
Councillor Bradley MacDonald asked if there was a possibility of rerouting some of the transmission lines to the current wind farm in Elmira on Route 16.
“We would certainly consider moving them, but there would be a cost and it would increase the capital cost of our project by no small amount,” Ms MacLeod said.
The entire project is estimated to be $60 million, but a full financial analysis has not been done on any of the three proposed sites which also include Skinners Pond and Irishtown.
PEIEC is proposing 2.5 per cent compensation of gross revenue for landowners and up to 1.25 per cent for the community as a whole.
It is a pittance, said Mr Cheverie who thinks the organization should be proposing double digits at the very least.
Former CAO Horatio Toledo said the community has never refused to look at a fair offer. He suggested PEIEC could include access to high speed fibre op to the community as an incentive.
Ms MacLeod said cyber security would negate that, but pointed out the provincial government’s most recent efforts to have high speed internet available for all Islanders by 2020.
Questions of land values, incentives and compensation aside, Ms MacLeod said time is getting tight.
Deputy Mayor Danielle Elliott said the next step for council is to consider the building permit when it is submitted.