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Posted: May 13, 2016

East Hill solar proposal nears decision

By Ian Cobb


A solar power facility proposal for the Cranbrook East Hill area is one step closer to receiving approval.

The Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) board of directors May 6 passed the third reading of Bylaw No. 2689, an amendment to RDEK – Cranbrook Rural Zoning Bylaw No. 1402, 2001 for Cranbrook East / 608534 BC Ltd., whereas the definition of a solar energy facility is added to the RR-60, Rural Resource Zone.

A map showing the property in question.
A map showing the property in question. Click to enlarge

The definition to be added: “Solar energy facility means a facility which is designed, constructed, installed and operated for the collection and conversion of solar energy to generate, store, distribute and supply electricity. The facility may include solar collector panels, film, shingles or other collector devices as well as buildings and structures accessory to collection and conversion of solar energy into electricity, including substations, electrical infrastructure and transmission lines.”

The board was also directed to ask for a development agreement containing items identified in a May 3 RDEK staff report be registered on title prior to the final reading (adoption).

A public hearing was held April 26 at the Cranbrook RDEK boardroom, with 29 area residents attending.

Several people speaking about the project said a lack of information around scale and future development of the 6,600 acre property were concerns, though they admitted they support solar energy.

Impacts to visuals, access roads and past controversial history of the land were also noted as concerns.

Ross Priest, working as an agent for the proponent, said at the hearing the facility would not be visible from Cranbrook, due to being on south-facing slopes.

RDEK Planning & Development Services manager Andrew McLeod outlined in a ‘request for decision’ to the board: “Prior to bylaw adoption, the applicant has agreed to the following parameters for a development agreement to be registered on the title of the property as a restrictive covenant under Section 219 of the Land Title Act. No solar energy facility may be developed on the property unless: It is located a minimum of 500 m from the property boundary; It is located no more than 200 m north of E-W BC Hydro right-of-way; It is located north of SW-NE BC Hydro right-of-way; and does not exceed 800 ha (1,977 acres) in parcel coverage.”

McLeod noted, “The proposed covenant will provide sufficient flexibility to the owner to undertake a potential solar energy development and greater certainty to the public regarding the size and location of same.”

Mayor Lee Pratt
Mayor Lee Pratt

City of Cranbrook Mayor and board member Lee Pratt said he preferred to support the passing of the amendment without the covenant parameters, making a motion to support passing third reading without them.

“It’s another rule that is not needed,” he said, noting those opposed at the public hearing and in letters/e-mails are “a small minority” of people against development on this property “for a number of years.”

Pratt also noted the facility would only be visible from the air.

City councillor and board member Tom Shypitka agreed with the mayor, saying it made no sense. “We’re making a mountain out of a molehill,” he said.

Kimberley's SunMine
Kimberley’s SunMine

City of Kimberley Mayor and board member Don McCormick pointed out Kimberley’s positive experience with its solar facility, SunMine.

“People want to see it; it’s become part of our community branding. It actually brings people to the community,” he said. “We need to be making these things less complex. These are good from an economic point of view and high risk from a proponent point-of-view.”

Electoral Area G director Gerry Wilkie argued he thought the parameters for a development agreement “are not onerous at all. It would reflect public concerns.”

Wilkie, City of Fernie Mayor Mary Giuliano, Electoral Area E director Jane Walter and Electoral Area C Director and board chair Rob Gay voted against the motion.

The regional board passed the first two readings of the bylaw on April 8.

Lead image: A view to the south from the East Hill property in question. Ian Cobb/e-KNOW

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