Families brought forward concerns regarding the solar farm location

ECA Review/J. Webster
Written by ECA Review

Local families brought forward concerns regarding a proposed solar farm being built near their property during the June 20 council meeting.

Among the concerned residents was J.D. Johnson, who took the opportunity to express his opinion on the solar farm. Accompanied by his wife Sandra and their daughter, as well as their neighbours Brett and Jenna Niborg, they sought to shed light on their issues with the project.

During his address to the council, Johnson clarified that his concerns were not related to the solar panels themselves but to the chosen location for the solar farm. The proposed site is across the highway from his property, near the intersection of Highway 855 and Township Road 392.

“There are so many better locations,” Johnson said, explaining that in sections 39-16, there are other areas of the section with no one living on them. “Yet you’re willing to put it on section 13 where everybody is?”

Johnson explained his issue with the company proposing the solar farm without consulting anyone except the landowner of the property they want to build on. He emphasized that the land earmarked for the solar farm was owned by someone who did not actively live there, implying that they would not experience the direct consequences of the project.

He also touched on the safety aspect of the project, saying that having the solar farm near his property causes stress as they don’t know if it is dangerous to live by.

“Now is it dangerous to live near solar farms? There’s no federally agreed-on information,” Johnson said.

He continued explaining that not knowing causes stress and eats at you. Johnson discussed the toll that the project has already taken on him.

“This county is considered easy, which I don’t want to use the word pushover but easy to get renewables through,” Johnson said. “In other words, this in other words, this county, our county is willing to forego me, my neighbours, the next generation for tax revenue, right?”

Reeve Stan Schulmeister responded to Johnson’s statement about the county being easy by saying, “we’re the last to know,” and that the council respects the rights of landowners.

“On this side of the desk we’re screwed,” Schulmeister said. “It doesn’t matter which side you take, you’re going to be losing.”

Todd Pawsey, the Director of Community Services, explained that they had not heard anything about the project yet, and the first thing he had heard was when Johnson reached out to him about the project.

Pawsey also explained that there is a process that the company would have to go through to build the solar farm. They would need a permit from the Alberta Utilities Commission, and they would also need to go through a Public Information Program where landowners and adjacent landowners would be contacted.

They would also need to hold an open house to address any concerns the community has.

Johnson asked the council if there was a bylaw they could use or revise so that they would not be able to build as close to the property people live on.

Pawsey explained that the government could tell them to change the land use bylaw back to the regular regulations for solar.

As of June 20, no one had spoken to the supposed landowner of the property that had agreed to have the solar farm built on their property.

Road use
Richard Roland addressed council regarding the volume of commercial traffic on the road in front of his property and Public Works Policy PW 24.

“I’d like to address that as I understand it, but the purpose of this policy is the procurement rules and equalization.

Roland has been in discussion with councillors and Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Michael Simpson regarding the issues with the road since December 2021.

In a recent letter, Roland was told what he would be allowed to question at the June 20 meeting and the council’s position.

“So in the councillors letter reply to me May 24. One of the concerns is that and I quote, “dust control would then be required to be applied across the county for equal benefit to all residents along gravel roads.”

“I’m curious to know how many residents on gravel roads experience traffic going from 100 vehicles a day,” Roland said.

He then explained that he believed that the road in front of his property fit the criteria for growth stabilization as outlined in Public Works Policy PW 24 and soil stabilization available for repairs in Public Works Policy PW 30.

Simpson offered recommendations for the council concerning the road. He also explained that Roland lives on a collector road.

“We have a road use agreement in place for the company that is specifically causing the loss of fines,” said Simpson. “Council is free to consider changing the maintenance standard on that road due to traffic volumes”.

“I would just say we can put that to trace to give you some numbers and you could bring it back for discussion and in your capital budget if you want for 2024.”

Roland said that he would appreciate it if they could look at their capital budget for 2024.

He also expressed his opinion that he should not be involved in the discussions regarding the road as it is a maintenance issue and, due to the amount of dust, “a health concern as well.”

The council acknowledged and accepted the delegation as information without further action or decision.

State of agricultural emergency
Paintearth council has declared a state of agricultural disaster due to the heatwave and little snowpack leading to little run-off, which has led to a drought.

Declaring the state of agricultural disaster allows farmers to apply for government funding to help with the loss of crops or livestock.

“Even with the rain the damage is too far gone, especially on the grass side,” Schulmeister said. “There’s going to be some big losses.”

Council discussed that not everyone had gotten rain and that it would be hard to recuperate from the loss of rainfall.

“I believe the declaration creates the eligibility for farmers within that municipal boundary to apply for relief programs as well as to the province,” Simpson said.

Jessica Campbell
ECA Review

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