BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
SCUGOG: A solar farm proposed for a Shirley Rd. property will start moving ahead again in the near future, after an environmental review tribunal recently concluded its hearing on the matter.
The hearing, dealing with a pair of appeals from Scugog Township and local resident Jacqueline Visconti, wrapped up on Sept. 13, after both parties appealed the proposed 10MW Canadian Solar Inc. development - slated for a 142-acre property within the Oak Ridges Moraine - earlier this summer, on the grounds of potential negative impacts to the local environment and wildlife. A number of deputations, including those from neighbours of the proposed facility, were heard by the tribunal over the course of several days before both sides sat down to negotiate.
According to Community Services Director Don Gordon, the developer and appellants reached an agreement on the facility, which will see a number of setbacks from nearby environmentally-sensitive features (including a wetland and savannah) increased to as much as 40 metres, as well as the movement of a communications tower and substation away from neighbours’ homes. Ms. Visconti noted that a wetland, designated as a seepage area, will be completely fenced off from the project, while other parts of the development will be opened up to allow for local wildlife to more easily move across the area.
While any work on the project will likely not take place at the property until at least next year, Mr. Gordon said that the township and Canadian Solar continue to work on the details of a construction agreement, including the possibility of a financial contribution from the developer to the municipality.
"We’re looking to get the landscaping and grading plans as well as securities in place," said Mr. Gordon. "We’re still working on the permit so it (construction) will likely not begin this year."
While he could not yet provide details, Mr. Gordon said that in regard to the possibility of a financial contribution, the township is working toward an agreement similar to one reached with developer Solray in another solar energy project slated for a Cragg Rd. lot in Greenbank, which was also appealed by the township (the appeal was later dropped by the municipality). In that agreement, the developer will contribute $100,000 in the first year for capital projects in Greenbank, along with $50,000 annually for the following 19 years to be put toward environmental projects in Scugog.
Canadian Solar Inc. spokesperson Suzanne Wilson declined to comment on the Shirley Rd. project’s current status, pending a full agreement on the facility between the developer and the township.
Ms. Visconti said that although she maintains that "such projects shouldn’t be allowed within the Oak Ridges Moraine," the agreement was acceptable to her and other residents living nearby.
"We feel this agreement was the best we could have got out of the negotiations," said Ms. Visconti, adding that she believes it was the presentations by both local residents and expert witnesses that helped move the appeals into the negotiation phase.
"From the beginning, we wanted the developers of this project to be good neighbours and they have respected that. Some neighbours wanted it stopped completely but that would have likely been impossible - we don’t have the resources for that kind of fight."
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