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Bluewater council votes for $25,000 annual turbine fee

VARNA – Municipality of Bluewater council passed a resolution May 16 to charge wind developers an annual $25,000 fee for each wind turbine erected in the municipality.

The decision, which passed 8-1 in a recorded vote, approved a recommendation from the municipality’s planning committee, which consists of all Bluewater councillors.

In the May 16 recorded vote, Mayor Bill Dowson and councillors Tyler Hessel, Dave Roy, John Gillespie, George Irvin, Janisse Zimmerman, Kay Wise and Geordie Palmer supported the $25,000 annual fee.

Hay East Coun. John Becker was the only member to vote against the fee. Deputy Mayor Paul Klopp declared a conflict of interest on the matter and did not participate in the vote.

Jim Fergusson, a former Bluewater councillor-at-large and 2010 mayoral candidate, suggested the idea of a $25,000 annual fee in a delegation to the planning committee May 9.

In an interview, Fergusson said what raised his level of concern on the issue was the number of Bluewater residents who expressed concern about turbines during the 2010 election campaign.

“They were concerned over the fact that if property values around the area of wind turbines decreased, that other remaining properties would have to increase to offset that decrease in property value,” Fergusson said.

“They were (in) fear of higher taxation.”

Fergusson said three concerns were identified during his delegation, one of which was property value.

He said the second concern was that “a percentage of the population do find turbines offensive.”

Fergusson said people expressed concern to him that “perhaps it may hurt the tourist value in Bluewater and that tourist-related businesses would suffer from a negative impact from the turbines.”

He said it was also expressed to him that it may be more difficult in the future for Bluewater to attract development and “it may impact the economy that way.”

To that end, the May 16 resolution calls for the $25,000 annual fee to be dedicated to the municipality’s Economic Development Committee “to fund their programs.”

During council’s discussion of the matter May 16, Becker questioned the $25,000 annual fee, asking where the delegation came up with it.

“They want this money to go to the economic development committee, which is a great idea, but through my speaking with people that have signed on lease agreements … this fee is quite enormous compared to what they’ve been told they would receive,” Becker said.

He later suggested $25,000 seems “very extreme.”

Fergusson said in an interview the suggested fee was based on data from the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and housing.

Bayfield Coun. Palmer suggested during council’s discussion of the matter that the number is not fixed, but a starting point.

Zurich Coun. Zimmerman said she would support the fee, “because we certainly have to start at a certain point.”

Council then voted to approve the fee.

In an interview Fergusson said the intent of the $25,000 fee was not to discourage wind developers from setting up in Bluewater.

“I don’t know if it would (discourage wind developers) or not,” he said. “The sole intent of the presentation was to offset any negative economic impact to the municipality.

Though Dowson and Klopp both declared a conflict of pecuniary interest at the May 9 planning meeting, Dowson did not declare a pecuniary interest May 16, citing legal advice.