PRINCE – Some residents are questioning the benefits of having 61 giant wind turbines rising over the northern shield zone they once viewed as their wilderness playground.
“All that digging, concrete, all that wood they chopped down – how is that green energy?” asked Amy Zucatto, who brought a delegation of three to a recent council meeting to quiz councillors about Brookfield Renewable Power Inc.’s Prince Power Project.
“Windmills are an industry. How did they end up in the shield zone?” Zucatto asked, noting that Zoning Bylaw 77-7 permits only the construction of wilderness camps no larger in area than 700 square feet.
Reeve Lou Madonna said that some years ago, council had approved 50-year leases on multiple shield zone properties for turbine construction by Superior Wind Energy Inc, a joint venture of the formerly named Brascan Power Corp. and Harmony Wind Energy, now operated by Brookfield.
Under the lease agreement, no construction could take place until the project met the environmental assessment requirements of the federal and provincial governments and various other agencies.
“They did all the tests,” Madonna told Zucatto. “They had the Ministry of the Environment to deal with.
“They had the airport to deal with. They had the (Sault Ste. Marie Region) Conservation Authority to deal with. . . . If they did something a ministry didn’t like, they (the ministry) would have stopped it,” Madonna said.
There were public meetings, Madonna recalled, in both Prince Township and Sault Ste. Marie.
Zucatto then argued that the township should have been compensated for “the noise that comes with these windmills,” and asked what had happened to the windfall in tax dollars she thought the township would receive.
“Where’s the money going?” she asked.
“We don’t have any new roads, or a new community centre.”
Madonna answered that the taxes come to the township, but “not as much as we expected.”
According to 2007 figures, the estimated property taxes Prince receive from the wind farm was $60,000, which included $12,000 from the final months of 2006, when the wind farm was to began operations.
Coun. Bobbi Williamson told Zucatto that wind farm taxes are calculated based on the kilowatts generated, rather than on the township’s industrial tax rate (1.215221 per cent this year, excluding the educational portion).
However, Zucatto said she had called the Municipal Property Assessment Corp. (MPAC) office in Sault Ste. Marie, and was told the industrial tax rate should have been applied.
Jay Savoy, who accompanied Zucatto to the meeting, said he objected to seeing No Trespassing signs along Creek Road and other township roads into the shield zone.
“Brookfield has everyone in the belief that it’s restricted,” Savoy said.
“How can they be restricted if they’re still township roads?”
Madonna said the No Trespassing signs did not belong to the township, adding that he would ask Brookfield to clarify which roads were or were not accessible to the public.
“Brookfield is very conscious of liability,” Madonna told Savoy.
Zucatto, whose family owns shield zone property, also asked that council look into the tax rates, both for the wind farm and for nearby private properties, arguing that the presence of an industry should lead to a drop in taxes for other shield zone lots.
“You can’t just brush me off,” she said.
Madonna said he and council would try to find answers to Zucatto’s questions in time for the June 10 meeting.
By Marguerite La Haye
22 May 2008
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