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Landowners who have a turbine built on their property will also be eligible for royalty payments. (CBC)

A group fighting a proposed wind farm in eastern P.E.I. is criticizing payments the province made to some landowners.

The government says 71 per cent of people in the area support the Hermanville project, but one of the opponents doesn't think the support would be that high if the payments hadn't been made.

"They sent a contract with a $500 if-you-sign-this-and-agree [contract], so literally paying for a vote," said Julie Shore, who co-owns an inn and distillery close to where one or more of the 10 turbines could be situated.

Twenty five landowners in the primary development zone were offered the contract and 19 signed it.

The money was not meant to secure votes, said Energy Minister Wes Sheridan.

"If you weren't in favour of this, would $500 change your mind? I don't think so. We found out who would be taking part," said Sheridan.

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The payments amount to buying votes, says Julie Shore. (CBC)

The $500 gives the province a five-year option to put a turbine on each property.

"Now we have to look at how exactly we can line up these turbines to get the very maximum energy output from them," said Sheridan.

Easement payments like this are common in the lead-up to new wind farm development, he said, as part of the planning process. Landowners who do end up with a turbine on their property are eligible for further payment of royalties.

For mobile device users: Were the P.E.I. government's payments to landowners for the new wind farm reasonable?