EASTERN KINGS, P.E.I. — Going into the evening's meeting, Danelle Elliott had no idea what her council's final decision was going to be.
"It was a big application for a small community like ours," said the deputy mayor of Eastern Kings. "Honestly, it's been very stressful and I'm glad it's done."
The decision was whether or not to grant P.E.I. Energy Corporation (PEIEC) a special development permit to add seven turbines to its existing wind farm in the area. The province gave PEIEC a conditional approval this September, but the final decision rested with the Rural Municipality of Eastern Kings.
After almost two years of consideration, as well as opposition from residents during public presentations, council ultimately voted 3-1 against the application during a special meeting at Eastern Kings Community Centre on Oct. 22.
The main concerns raised were about the environment, Elliott said.
"That the construction might affect what we currently have here."
EASTERN KINGS' ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY:
Excerpts from the Rural Municipality of Eastern Kings' 2013 official plan regarding environmental preservation:
- To identify, protect, and enhance the ecological integrity of the Eastern Kings and its significant environmental features.
- To facilitate opportunities for residents to have access to natural areas and the shoreline.
- 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.
- The municipality's official plan won an award for environmental awareness in 2015, Coun. Bradley MacDonald said.
The area PEIEC had proposed for development featured about 14 hectares of forested land - all of which would be cut down for the expansion. One of the province's conditions for approval was that another 42 ha of land be purchased and preserved to mitigate the environmental impact.
Coun. David Stewart said part of the land that would have been cut down is old-growth forest.
"I don't believe planting a new forest in another area is going to make up for what's lost."
Eastern Kings' official plan notes that council must strive to protect its major attractions, which Stewart believes include the area's forests as well as its migratory bird population.
The plan was often referenced as it emphasizes the municipality's responsibility around environmental preservation and wind turbine regulation.
"I don't believe that this has been met by this proposal," said Coun. Bradley MacDonald. "(So) I think it's in the best interest of our community not to be in favour of this."
EASTERN KINGS' WIND TURBINE POLICY:
Excerpts from the Rural Municipality of Eastern Kings' 2013 official plan regarding wind turbine regulation:
- Eastern Kings shall regulate windmill development in its development bylaw. Viewscapes of the shoreline will be protected from the development of large-scale wind turbines.
- Council will adhere to provincial regulations addressing wind energy production. Also, it is councilʼs aim to address opportunities for wind development appropriate in size and scale to the municipality.
- Council will require evidence that any proposed windmill does not pose any significant aesthetic, environmental, or public safety threats to the Community residents or the traveling public.
- It is Eastern King's objective to permit windmills within the community for the purposes of electrical power generation.
A few councillors noted that the most appealing part of the development was the potential financial impact on Eastern Kings. However, Coun. Anne McPhee was skeptical it would be in the form of job creation or tourism spinoff, she said.
"I am not anti-wind turbine," McPhee said. "I'm just not in favour of this proposal in that location."
Once the decision was officially made, the 40 to 50 residents who were in attendance broke into applause. Mayor Grace Cameron, who didn't partake in discussions on the application due to a conflict of interest, commended council for how it handled the process.
As for what happens next, Elliott hopes council can focus more of its time on other matters, but PEIEC still has options they may explore, she said.
"I don't know whether they'll appeal or not."
Daniel Brown is a local journalism initiative reporter, a position funded by the federal government.