A group is urging the county to use an once of prevention as it moves towards finalizing details in its plan to allow the development of wind turbines.
Friends for Responsibility in the Economy & Energy (FREE) is urging Annapolis County to take a conservative stance to ensure wind farms won’t adversely impact the quality of life for residents and taxpayers.
The county’s Planning Advisory Committee (PAC) has been revising an interim bylaw to permit wind turbine development in Annapolis County. A series of public meetings were held this summer and based on public input the PAC finalized a draft wind turbine bylaw in August.
According to Steve Lewis, FREE spokesperson, his group is concerned that the recent draft has omissions that could adversely affect the county’s finances and the quality of life for residents in the future.
Lewis said his group would like to see the draft held for further revisions before it reaches the next step, a public hearing. The next regular meeting of the PAC will take place on Sept. 6 at 10 a.m. at the municipal office, while the public hearing for the draft bylaw is tentatively scheduled for late September.
“We are supportive of alternative energy, but only if will not put landowners and taxpayers at risk,” says Lewis. “We believe they’ve missed a few things and we want to ensure this is done in a way that doesn’t cause pain down the road. We need to take a serious second look before it goes any further.”
Lewis encourages all county residents to consider what’s at stake and how today’s plans can affect the future. Among the chief priorities is ensuring there is an insurance bond to protect landowners and taxpayers from possible decommissioning costs in the future.
The group also wants a written guarantee that the developer will be required to pay its share of municipal taxes. Lewis added it should be recognized that any special exemptions or conditions granted to one developer won’t set precedence for others and extend to future agreements.
Their ultimate goal is to ensure the best interests of residents and taxpayer, not to discourage the development of wind farms, he said.
Under the current wording, decommissioning and site restoration costs are outlined in a private agreement between the property owner and the operator/developer without requiring a bond or other financial security.
Lewis says this could be a problem for taxpayers in the future. If the company goes bankrupt or sells the wind farm, and if the landowner does not have sufficient funds, an assurance needs to be in place so taxpayers won’t be responsible for the cost of removal of infrastructure.
Another needed amendment to protect taxpayers is to stipulate the wind farm developer/operator is not eligible for future tax-exempt status in the future. And finally the bylaw must be written in a way that any code exemptions granted to one developer aren’t precedent-setting for any future wind farms, Lewis added.
For more information on FREE, visit http://annapolisfree.webs.com; To view the county’s draft Wind Turbine Land Use Bylaw and Draft: Wind Turbine, Municipal Planning Strategy, visit http://www.annapoliscounty.ns.ca/development/developmentcontrol.html
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