The environment trumped economic gain for the majority of councillors when they voted a motion down to grant a development permit for a seven turbine wind farm in the Rural Municipality of Eastern Kings Thursday night.
The 3-1 vote to reject the development permit application submitted by PEI Energy Corporation, PEIEC, back in November 2019 drew applause from most of the 40 plus residents who attended.
Councillors David Stewart, Bradley MacDonald and Anne MacPhee voted no. Councillor Arthur Baker voted yes. Councillor Bernadette MacInnis and Mayor Grace Cameron were at the meeting, but did not participate in the proceedings as both have declared a conflict of interest over the proposed wind farm.
“None of us have taken this lightly,” Deputy Mayor Danelle Elliott said.
“We have taken into consideration our official plan, our bylaws and what we feel is in the best interest of the community.”
Ms Elliott, who was standing in for Mayor Grace Cameron at the meeting, did not have to cast a vote to break a tie, but nonetheless she did talk about what her choice would be.
“I’ve weighed the pros and cons and I feel the concerns of the community may be too much in comparison to the opportunity to the community.”
The three councillors who voted against the motion all referenced the significance of the environment that is laid out in the community’s official plan.
Councillor Anne MacPhee did acknowledge there could be financial gain for the community to allow the wind farm expansion.
“There has been some discussion of employment opportunities, but I’m not entirely sure there is going to be a lot of jobs created for local citizens,” Councillor Anne MacPhee said.
She quoted directly from the community’s official plan when speaking to her decision to vote against the permit.
“To protect and enhance the ecological integrity of the Community; To promote watershed management principles in land use planning and to ensure that the environmental impacts of development do not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs and enjoy the quality of life that we enjoy today,” she said.
Coun MacDonald was a member of council when the official plan was established in 2013.
“This same set of plans received an award in 2015 for environmental awareness,” he said.
He also referred to the fact the official plan maps out just how wind turbine development in the community could be carried out.
“I don’t believe this has been met by this proposal and for this reason I think it is in the best interest of our community not to be in favour of this resolution,” Coun MacDonald said.
Coun Stewart spoke to the fact East Point is a world class birding site and erecting the wind turbines in the area designated would be detrimental.
“Also the old growth forest that is in part of the proposed area is (irreplaceable) ... I don’t believe planting a new forest in another area is going to make up for the loss,” Coun Stewart said.
He did stipulate he is not against wind development if it is in the right place.
Coun Baker said he made his decision after taking everything into consideration.
It was in January of 2019 when PEIEC first came to council with the proposal to expand the existing wind farm. The original proposal of 14 turbines was adjusted to seven after council voted in July of 2019 not to allow a variance to the bylaw.
From the beginning of the process several community members went public with their objections to the plan.
Fred Cheverie owns property in the municipality and is also coordinator of the Souris Wildlife, the local watershed group.
It is with his watershed hat on he spoke to the decision.
“Thank God we have a municipal council in Eastern Kings,” Mr Cheverie said.
“Kudos to the previous council for developing an ‘Official Plan’ that recognized its irreplaceable natural, picturesque landscape and it’s wildlife as an asset. This allowed the overall tone of the Official Plan” to reflect the importance of preserving the ecological integrity of the area.”
Representatives from PEIEC, who attended the meeting, declined to comment on next steps and referred The Graphic to the communications spokesperson for the Provincial Department of Energy.
More to come in this week’s Eastern Graphic.