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Much to our frustration, the Report of the Commission of Land and Local Governance continues to collect dust

Judge Ralph Thompson works on the Report of the Commission of Land and Local Governance in this Guardian file photo

Former provincial judge Ralph Thompson wrote in his Report of the Commission of Land and Local Governance, “The problems which this report addresses did not occur overnight and many of them will not be solved overnight.”

Maybe not, but we’re betting Thompson didn’t realize it would take more than two years for government to take the first step.

The land use issue — a Prince Edward Island theme since our earliest colonists had to send rents back to Europe for the lots they were clearing, building upon and farming — is enmeshed with nearly every decision government makes. Yet it is rarely acknowledged.

A week ago, residents were invited to a public meeting to discuss wind farm development in northeastern Kings County. Most of the 100 people in attendance supported the plan that they saw as an economic boost to the region. Since then, The Guardian has heard from residents who are opposed to more wind turbines in the area, worried about devaluing their property and affecting their health.

The same plan got a thumbs up from residents but declined by council in Eastern Kings earlier in the year.

Everyone commenting on the topic has a vested interest, so it’s hard to know what is best for the whole community.

But doing what’s best for the community is exactly what Scottish professor Alistair McIntosh advises.

“No terrestrial wind energy should go ahead unless … (there is) a real benefit going into the local community,” McIntosh said during a public lecture earlier this month in Charlottetown. “If that is not the case, it shouldn’t happen. Otherwise, it’s the theft of amenity to the local community,” he said.

McIntosh is a professor in human ecology, land use and climate change who advocates community land ownership in his native Scotland. He warned Prince Edward Island should hold onto its assets and make decisions on their use that benefit the whole community, not just as a means for making money for an individual or business.

Wind farm development is only one area where having a concrete land use policy could help give a clear direction and focus.

Wind mills; fish kills; highway projects; water conservation; residential, agricultural and industrial interests: The list of recent news stories where a good land governance template would have benefited discussions goes on and on. It’s frustrating to know that such a document exists, sitting on someone’s desk, gathering dust.

The Report of the Commission of Land and Local Governance was released to the provincial government in January 2010. At that time, Carolyn Bertram, who was the minister for communities and cultural affairs, promised her department would set up a task force immediately to host public consultations on the topic.

We didn’t hear anything more about this task force until March of this year, when the Department of Agriculture and Forestry issued a call for members, with an application deadline of March 15. The department’s website to this day still promises, “A Task Force will be established in March 2012 and will begin public consultations in early spring of 2012. The provincial land use policies will be developed following the input from public consultations.”

That deadline, like others before it, has passed. Let’s stop talking about the land use report and start acting on it.

Organizations: Commission of Land and Local Governance, Department of Agriculture and Forestry

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Europe, Northeastern Kings Kings Charlottetown Scotland

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Recent comments

  • Marcia Hoodwin
    August 01, 2012 - 22:54

    I am a landowner in Hermanville and was not notified of the wind project. I am, however, notified of my taxes due. The wind turbines would be too close to homes and businesses etc. and therefore would be putting people at risk for "wind turbine syndrome". People would be adversely affected by the noise and strobe- like effects. The turbines need to be at least 2 kilometers away from people and out of the flight paths of birds. We were considering building on our property, but are now having second thoughts. If the wind turbines go forward, we will stop our visits to PEI, along with a lot of other people, which will adversely affect the economy of the island.

  • Worried Neighbour
    August 01, 2012 - 08:01

    What of the power lines that will possibly run by my house? Nothing has been said. They will have to run down the Souris Line Road or the New Zealand Road. Right by so many houses. Yet the govern't hasn't said a word about this. Why is this so ill planned?

    • Jean Selines
      August 01, 2012 - 22:45

      You make a very valid point. This project is poorly planned with no transparency. People don't know the details, in fact they don't even know the major points because so little has been shared. I would imagine people from the Souris Line Rd., New Zealand and Rock Barra will be negatively affected by this assault on our environment. More people need to speak up and demand details of Minister Sheridan. Talk to your neighbors, your friends, your co-workers and invite them to join us in not allowing this environmental disaster to come to fruition.

  • Julie Shore
    July 31, 2012 - 13:51

    "... theft of amenity to the local community" You got that right ! Ole Wes "Robber Hood" Sheridan and is cronnie The Imperial Builder Wayne MacQuarrie are making back door deals with Maritime Electric . As if this govern't hasn't done enough to rural PEI their stealing their landscape and peace of mind too.

  • i.sargent
    July 31, 2012 - 11:47

    Landowners have been advised that the project has been fast-tracked simply because equipment procurements and energy accords were made by Minister Sheridan before the Phase 2 installation was rejected by the Eastern Kings community council. Mr. Sheridan has a vested interest in his political career and reckless decisions such as these endanger Mr. Sheridan's credibility. Mr, Sheridan can claim that the offer of $5 million to the 24 private woodlot owners who are potentially eligible for compensation is not bribery, but the fact is that those particular woodlots could be purchased outright at a fraction of the cost of the compensation package- and the $5 million of public funds is being expended solely for propaganda purposed

  • Barbie goes to washington
    July 31, 2012 - 11:45

    Carolyn Bertram was going to do allot of things but only found time to renovate her offices for 250,000.00

  • Jean Selines
    July 31, 2012 - 11:21

    I am one of the landowners in the Hermanville - Clear Springs area who is vehemently opposed to the bulding of this proposed wind turbine farm. Simply put it is going to permanently change the landscape of an area that is predominantly rural and agricultural with no regard for the character and quality of this particular place. Now I must admit that I am emotionally attached to this place as my great great great grandparents were some of its very first settlers and I am in the process of building a home. That being said I know that if you have visited this area or spent any time here you will agree that Hermanville and Clear Springs are popular with bird watchers, beach goers, cyclists and fisherman. Tourists and visitors come to this area for the natural beauty and tranquility. The turbines will destroy the attractive characteristics this area is know for; towering trees hosting eagles, hawks and falcons, secluded sandy beaches where families can play and reconnect and for a place that is quiet, pristine and a haven for folks who want to relax and rejuvenate. I strongly feel that the proposed wind farm will have a long lasting negative affect on this special place. I feel my favorite place in the world was picked because the Provincial Governemt felt there would be little if any opposition to this change in land use. I am speaking up on behalf of all the people who respect our land on PEI and saying stop the destruction of our environment.

  • New NDP Voter
    July 31, 2012 - 09:38

    We need to see more edtorials like this one Guardian. The government is avoiding the policy discussion that consideration of the Thompson report would bring about. They know this very well. They do not want this kind of discussion because projects like Plan B and this slap dash wind project would look even more foolish in the context of a sensible conversation on land use. If we were discussing land use issues then the fish kills and the water supply issues would make the current government negligence look even worse. PEI needs to get away from patronage projects and personality contests and get down to the tough policy discussions. Both of the old parties still want to play the same old games. They know if the dialogue gets serious they cannot get away with their old tricks any more. They also know that serious policy discussions will begin the election of NDP MPs and MLAs, Thanks for taking the time, Guardian, to try to smarten up the debate. Keep 'em coming.