Grey Highlands council at its regular meeting on Monday, July 25 turned down a road use agreement for the Plateau Wind Project.
In a 4-3 vote council defeated the agreement. The defeat of the agreement doesn’t mean much in the long-term picture. The turbines are still being built and the project will continue.
The agreement before council would have provided the Municipality of Grey Highlands with approximately $500,000 for a community fund to be spent on projects as council sees fit. The agreement would also have buried the project’s transmission lines. A key part of the agreement would have seen the municipality drop its appeal to divisional court of an Ontario Energy Board (OEB) decision allowing IPC use of municipal roads.
After the agreement was defeated by council IPC representative David Timm told reporters the wind power project is moving forward and that the transmission lines would be overhead.
The debate about the road agreement started off on a bizarre note when councillor David Kell attempted to stop any discussion about the resolution introducing the bylaw to adopt the agreement. Councillor Kell moved a motion to call for a vote immediately, without discussion.
Other members of council were upset that some councillors were attempting to prevent any discussion on the matter. The attempt to force an immediate vote was defeated in a 4-3 recorded vote.
Councillors opposed to the agreement said they felt it was a bad deal for Grey Highlands and that it was council’s job to protect its residents from unwanted industrial development.
“I don’t like the deal being made. When it’s signed our appeal to be heard at divisional court goes out the window. As a council that’s what we decided to do,” said councillor Lynn Silverton. “We’re signing away our rights as a municipality and as a council to decide what is best for our residents,” said Silverton.
Councillor Paul Allen said he had been prepared to vote in favour of the agreement, but changed his mind over the past few days.
“I think (IPC) realize they don’t have the right to use our roads and they need this agreement signed,” said Allen. “If they really cared about the community they wouldn’t use the burying of the lines as a bargaining tool,” said Allen.
Councillor Stewart Halliday called the agreement “one-sided” and said he was willing to go through the document line-by-line with the rest of council to show why he held that belief.
“We’re signing away our rights. That’s something I wasn’t elected to do,” said Halliday.
Councillor David Kell said he couldn’t understand why members of council didn’t want to move ahead with the agreement.
“The turbines are already being constructed – whether we sign this agreement or not. This agreement is simply that they’re going to bury the transmission lines and they will give us money we can spend elsewhere in the municipality,” he said.
Mayor Wayne Fitzgerald also vacated the chair to speak to the matter. The Mayor said he didn’t like the suggestion that the road agreement in front of council was hurting the municipality.
“This is not an agreement that has been drafted by some amateur. It was worked out by the lawyers advising us,” said Fitzgerald.
The vote divided council and the bylaw to accept the road agreement was defeated 4-3. Councillors Allen, Silverton and Halliday combined with Deputy Mayor Paul McQueen to defeat the resolution.
After the bylaw was defeated Timm told reporters that IPC would move ahead with the project. Timm said the OEB decision has already determined that IPC can use municipal road allowances for the project. He said the project would move ahead based on the OEB decision with overhead transmission lines.
“Our preference was to have a road use agreement and offer a community fund. That was a more palatable solution,” said Timm, adding that the offers to bury the lines and create a community fund are now off the table.
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