By Leith Dunick, www.tbnewswatch.com
Horizon Wind has just one more obstacle before its proposed wind farm gets the go-ahead at the municipal level.
City officials on Thursday released a public report that recommends council approve all 18 of the southern Ontario company’s planned turbine locations, despite the threat of a lawsuit from nearby residents in opposition to the $75-million plan.
“It is concluded that the city should enter into a lease with Horizon as contemplated in the option agreement, with negotiated amendments as summarized in this report, and that the city should approve the locations for turbines 1-18 as proposed by Horizon,” the city writes in the report, prepared by city solicitor Rosalie Evans.
The project must still get provincial approval and complete consultation with affected First Nations communities.
Council will vote for or against the recommendation on Tuesday, 13 days ahead of the Oct. 25 municipal election. On Monday council gave administration three days to produce Thursday’s report, which comes on the heels of Dillon Consulting Inc.’s confirmation that Horizon’s self-collected view-shed data was accurate.
As part of the deal Horizon and the city will cap the number and height of any future turbines and grant easements for connectivity and roads between the towers, allowing public access in the area.
Horizon has agreed to provide financial security for decommissioning the turbines when the lease expires, a bone of contention opponents used to fight the project, not wanting taxpayers to be left on the hook for the expected multimillion dollar cost.
The report says administration does not feel the approval of the turbines has been rushed, another complaint opponents from the Nor’Wester Mountain Escarpment Protection Committee have laid at the feet of the city.
“Wind turbine location approval was initially requested by Horizon in March and lease format approval was initially requested in May,” Evans writes. As outlined in the background section of this report, these matters have been considered by Committee of the Whole on several occasions.
The report also shakes off criticism that the city shouldn’t have considered approving locations or a lease until the company completes its provincially mandated renewable energy approval process.
The report said the criticism is unfounded, noting the city must consider the matters under its jurisdiction and the province consider those under Ontario’s.
“The city’s approval of the wind turbine locations and the form of lease it enters with Horizon will not impact the REA approval process,” the report says. “Concerns raised by the public and by the city must be addressed by Horizon in the context of that process. Horizon has acknowledged its obligations in that regard.”
More studies and due diligence could be undertaken, but administration said it has all the information it needs, and more studies would needlessly cost taxpayers more money.
Evans, in the report, acknowledged the threat of lawsuits from “several parties.” Nothing has yet to be filed in court.