By Bob Boughner
An independent Chatham-Kent Municipal Airport study tabled Tuesday calls an agreement with a wind turbine developer a “tremendous success.”
The agreement represents new standards in consultations between airports and wind turbine developers, according to James Lindsey, aviation consultant with GENIVAR, the independent consultant hired to conduct the study.
Lindsey said the $2.5 million South Kent Wind L.P. is offering the municipality for upgrades at the airport is a “tremendous success for both Chatham-Kent and the airport.”
He said the funded upgrades will result in immediate safety and usability improvements for the airport and its general aviation and corporate tenants.
Lindsey said the improvements include a runway extension, airfield lighting upgrade, new instrument approach procedures, a new automated weather observation system and glider area access improvements.
“This is great news for Chatham-Kent,” said Mayor Randy Hope. “We have insisted that the wind turbine developers contribute back to the community. Since this project was going to have a perceived impact on our airport, we have negotiated an unprecedented funding contribution for the airport.”
Hope said no other municipality in Ontario has obtained similar funding for its airport from a wind energy developer.
Airport manager Marion Smith had no comment on the report.
John Norton, the municipality’s director of legal services, said the placement of wind turbines is entirely regulated by the province “and the province has approved the project, subject to outstanding appeals.”
He said municipalities no longer have jurisdiction or authority to determine the location or placement of wind turbines.
“There is little we could have done to stop this project from going ahead, so, given our limited options, this is an excellent result achieved by the mayor and council,” he said.
Chatham-Kent Essex MPP Rick Nicholls said he still has safety concerns but is willing to accept the consultant’s findings. He added the safety improvements at the airport are needed.
Hope told The Daily News last week that Nicholls would have to “eat crow” after the consultant’s report was tabled.
According to the report, South Kent Wind LP will contribute additional funding to the community over the life of the project to various charitable and community causes.
Funding by South Kent Wind LP is contingent on final approval from the Ontario Ministry of Environment to constrict 124 new wind turbines north and east of the airport.
Early work on the turbine project is scheduled to begin in March with turbine construction beginning in June and taking up to 18 months.
Following ministry approval, work on airport improvements is to begin in June and take up to 18 months to complete.