Michael Gennings, Staff, Simcoe Reformer, Simcoe.com
“By staying in the game, by being in the process, by choosing to be more comprehensive commenting…we have visibility and credibility with other municipalities to work on this issue.”
STAYNER – After stating at its June 28 meeting that it wouldn’t devote staff resources to commenting on alternative energy projects, since the province has removed municipal approval authority for these applications, Clearview Township council has done an about face.
At council Monday night, before a packed gallery, elected officials rescinded the June 28 resolution that outlined the township’s stay quiet approach and passed a new resolution, moved by Deputy Mayor Alicia Savage and seconded by Ward 4 councillor Thom Paterson.
The move was in response to negative public reaction to council’s June 28 decision.
“The rescinding is very heartening – that they will actually comment and make time and resources available. I think it’s tremendous that they’ve reacted to public pressure,” said Colin Huismans of Clearview WAIT, an anti-wind turbine group.
“And it’s instrumental the person who brought the previous motion forward [Deputy Mayor Savage] brought this forward,” he added.
The deputy mayor said Monday night that with the first resolution it was her intention to protect taxpayers from unnecessary expenses.
She added she didn’t want to do anything that would “mislead” the public in terms of Clearview’s lack of authority over green energy projects.
The first part of the new resolution directs staff to prepare as full a report as possible on renewable energy applications in the township, rather than follow what elected officials called a restrictive provincial consultation process.
The resolution also states that while staff will rely on internal resources to comment on green energy applications, the township will also consider “input and approaches from other jurisdictions and if external resources are deemed necessary staff will report back to council with costs for consideration.”
Council also directed staff in the resolution to solicit public input on renewable energy applications and assemble a file of such comment for submission with municipal comments.
Elected officials also told staff they will “prepare and forward comprehensive comments on each renewable energy application as part of the provincial consultation process and inclusive of the information representing all of Clearview’s interests and concerns.”
Staff was also directed to prepare a submission to the province, seeking “a method and authority to collect application review expenses from the proponent of renewable energy projects.”
Director of planning Michael Wynia and several members of council repeatedly cautioned Monday night that while Clearview is now taking a more active role in terms of commenting on green energy projects the approval process still rests with the provincial government.
Ward 7 councillor Shawn Davidson went on to say that while he supported the new resolution he was wary of it because Clearview has no approval say in the matter of green energy.
“This is not a Site 41-type issue,” he said. “We have listened to residents. I don’t see Jim Wilson in the room. I don’t see Minister Duguid (Minister of Energy and Infrastructure) in the room. At the end of the day we have no authority.”
His comments were interrupted several times from the crowded gallery, prompting Mayor Ken Ferguson to call for order. In the end, Davidson declined to continue his remarks.
Ward 4 councillor Thom Paterson said council should always be ready to “listen and react” to matters that concern locals, a point he made several times on June 28 when council was considering its first resolution.
Residents, who later spoke at the meeting, including Huismans, echoed Paterson.
Wynia noted during the meeting that Clearview is still on record as having called for a moratorium on wind turbines until the impact of them on all aspects of life can be better understood.
Mayor Ken Ferguson spoke with The Sun on Tuesday morning.
“I had numerous calls, I had people here, it [the first resolution] wasn’t going over well. The right thing to do for everybody was take the position that we’d comment. We needed to appease everybody. And I do believe it’s the right thing. We are the closest voice for the people. We can take the input from our public and make sure it goes to the province or whoever. That’s the right thing to do.
“To say we don’t care – people are wrong. We were frustrated with the process, that’s what lead to what we did two weeks ago.”
Ferguson credited Savage and Wynia with coming up with the wording for the new resolution.
“It’s something we can all live with and again it’s the right thing to do at the end of the day. This took a lot of hard-thinking. It probably took us three days to get this resolution down on paper.”
Councillor Paterson also spoke about the new resolution on Tuesday.
“This is the strength of this council. We work together. Following the meeting I let it be known I was going to put forward a motion to rescind the initial motion. I spoke to the mayor, a couple other councillors and it was the Deputy Mayor who said she’d like to make the motion. I think very comprehensively – with this new resolution – we’ve covered all the bases. So I was very happy – encouraged that council will represent Clearview.
“By staying in the game, by being in the process, by choosing to be more comprehensive commenting…we have visibility and credibility with other municipalities to work on this issue,” said Paterson.