A Kingsville councillor fears the town would lose residential growth and tax revenue if a proposal to create Canada’s largest wind farm goes ahead as proposed.
Coun. Chris Lewis, who voted against bylaws that would have allowed the Brookfield Power wind farm, said while the town might benefit from an estimated $100,000 a year in taxes from the wind development, that only equals the revenue from 46 new homes. The municipality could have a better tax base in the future from subdivisions, and farmers could make more money by selling land for residential subdivisions than by leasing it for wind turbines, he said.
Lewis also argued there is opposition to the wind farm, and for the same economic benefit, residents could be driving by just one industrial park. “I’m not sure that is what most people want to look at on the horizon.”
Councillors Lewis and Gord Queen got a chance at a special council meeting Thursday to explain their concerns with Brookfield Power’s plans to build a $500-million, 149-turbine wind farm in Lakeshore, a bit of Leamington and Kingsville, with 47 turbines in Kingsville. The council meeting was held with planners and representatives from Brookfield Power to clarify concerns and perhaps avoid an Ontario Municipal Board hearing.
In December, a tie vote at Kingsville council defeated an official plan amendment and a zoning bylaw amendment that would have allowed large scale wind farms in Kingsville. Brookfield Power appealed the decision to the OMB. A hearing date hasn’t been set. An OMB hearing could cost the town $40,000 to $60,000.
Deputy Mayor Katherine Gunning disagreed with Lewis that farmers would be better off selling their land for residential development. She said development is only allowed in serviced areas and it is “fantasy” to suggest some of the farmers may have the option of selling to a developer. She said she’d have a wind turbine in her backyard and considers them beautiful.
Lewis said he wouldn’t want to live next to a wind turbine unless he was making money from it. He said the province is spending a lot of money to encourage wind power but it won’t end the use of coal and nuclear plants.
Lewis said mediation to avoid a hearing may work if Brookfield Power is willing to move the wind farm away from the Cottam area of Kingsville.
Queen said his concerns were “dismissed” earlier. He was worried that Brookfield Power’s application to the town would have allowed turbines south of the Jack Miner Bird Sanctuary. He said he’d like turbines banned in an eight-kilometre radius around the sanctuary.
An amended application may be brought to council because it could be difficult for council to reconsider its decision. A motion to reconsider must be brought by a councillor who voted against the motion and would require support from two-thirds of council.
Ian Kerr, wind development project manager for Brookfield Power, said the company could explore changing the application and would like to avoid going to the OMB. Coun. Bob Peterson said the wind farms will be built somewhere in the province and Kingsville should take advantage of the opportunity to boost the local agriculture industry. He asked that a planning report based on Thursday’s comments come to council in three weeks.
POWER FOR 50,000
Brookfield Power’s Gosfield Comber wind energy project is for 149 turbines in Kingsville, Lakeshore and a bit of Leamington. The 246-megawatt project would produce enough electricity to power the equivalent of 50,000 homes a year.
Brookfield Power estimates the tax benefits to the local municipalities would be in the $200,000 to $250,000 range, said Ian Kerr, the company’s wind development project manager.
Landowners with a turbine on their property get a percentage of the turbine revenue, which could be $7,000 to $10,000 a year depending on the wind, Kerr said.
Construction could provide about 250 jobs for 16 months and there would be 16 to 20 permanent jobs associated with the wind farm.
By Sharon Hill
8 February 2008
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