Appeal Board approves Halkirk 2 Wind Project

Don Coulthard explains to the Subdivision
and Development Appeal Board (SDAB)
the close proximity the proposed
windmills will be from his property during
the SDAB meeting on Mon. June 11 in the
Paintearth County council chambers. The
purpose of the meeting was to go over
any topics that were not covered by the
Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) in
their decision earlier this year.
ECA Review/T.Huxley

 

The Halkirk II Wind Project moves forward despite community opposition. At the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board (SDAB) preliminary hearing for the proposed Halkirk II Wind Project, to be undertaken by Capital Power, residents were seen scrambling to find solutions to an imminent problem.

On Mon., June 11, Capital Power representatives, various land owners, and Paintearth County staff and SDAB board members attended the meeting to discuss a few specifics surrounding the project. County of Paintearth Development Officer Todd Pawsey explained the restrictive nature of the meeting and its purpose because all other topics were put forth in front of the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) in November which limited the initial scope of the board’s decision. Any decisions made at the municipal level are then overruled as found in Section 619 of the Municipal Government Act.

“We are subservient to the province in many ways and when a provincial order or provincial agency makes a ruling like that we have to follow suit, so in that way the group made an excellent presentation to the AUC (Alberta Utilities Commission) back in November and in terms of where the AUC dealt with all of those particular matters. “Their decision ultimately trumps over us in any case so that is where any decision from the development appeal board is like they said where there was nothing left that wasn’t dealt with by the AUC,” said Pawsey.

In April 2018, the AUC approved Capital Power’s Halkirk 2 Wind Project, determining that the project is in the public interest. Bill McElhanney of Ackroyd LLP represented individuals of the Battle River Group and appellants where he raised a few points that were not discussed at the provincial level including an airdrome and timing of information being given to residents.

He noted Turbine T047A would be located immediately north of the airdrome which is owned by the Fetaz family. He also explained the appellants struggle with keeping informed on important dates as communication was considered not prevalent.

“Keep in mind that none of the appellants had the opportunity at that stage to be part of the hearing and to review the AUC decision. Indeed they didn’t even have that opportunity to fulfill the obligation to file here by April 9. So it has been a little bit of shadow boxing for my clients about where is the information and how is that going to materialize?” said McElhanney.

The community, including families, have become divided as morals and emotions run high. Some have signed a contract to allow the controversial project onto land while others are fighting to keep them away. Health, safety, property value and lifestyle were of top concern for landowners in the area who voiced their opinion at the meeting. In a previous interview with one group member, the County had put forth a bylaw amendment to move the towers back to 1000 metres from homes, but as soon as Capital Power threatened to drop the project, the council dropped the bylaw change.

“As a landowner and ratepayer in the affected area my concern is: A) the health and safety of my family, and B) the disruption of the lifestyle we purchased in to,” said landowner Steve Maier. “We have purchased land in the area before Halkirk 2 was of public knowledge so we were unaware of it and they are planning on putting six windmills within a mile of me.

“I consider my families health a concern. I consider a disruption to our long term plans a bit of a concern and the other thing is that something is going to disrupt the safety and comfort of my family. I would have to relocate. In that case what would be the resale value of my property knowing that there are windmills and could I in good conscious sell that to someone?” concluded Maier.

Pawsey added, “I think it has [divided people] because you have some relatives signed up and others that haven’t. You have some issues up there that I think partly might have been dealt with better in terms of Capital Power and how they have had the learning curve as well too.”

The SDAB made the final decision to refuse the 10 appellants that stepped forward during the meeting and accept the 10 development permit applications based off the Municipal Government Act ruling. The merits hearing scheduled for Wed., July 5 has subsequently been cancelled as it is no longer required. Capital Power will now seek provincial funding approval for construction as their final hurdle before construction can begin in the area.

The county is looking forward to the future. “We are glad that the appeal process is over and we are looking forward to moving on from this with some community healing.”

Capital Power’s Media Relations & Communications Manager Michael Sheehan added “Capital Power enjoys being part of the Halkirk community already and is focused on being a good neighbour now and into the future.

“We will continue to listen to and work with stakeholders to resolve and mitigate any impacts as much as possible.

Capital Power believes Halkirk 2 Wind will provide a competitive source of new wind generation that will help Alberta achieve its renewable objectives.”

The final decision from the SDAB can be found on the County of Paintearth website under ‘Planning, Development,

& Industry’.

 

Terri Huxley

ECA Review

About the author

ECA Review Publisher