Wind-turbine opponents are demanding Adelaide Metcalfe council repeal a new turbine-building fee it imposed unexpectedly and without notifying them.
The rural township west of Strathroy, where two companies are proposing to build 68 wind turbines, approved a $10,000-per-turbine fee at a Jan. 16 meeting.
Last month, scores of people attended a council meeting to ask the fee charged be even higher than that.
The issue was set aside so staff could learn what other municipalities charge.
“I was flabbergasted,” said activist Esther Wrightman, to discover from a councillor’s Facebook page that in one night council had proposed, debated, approved and passed into bylaw the new fees. “I didn’t believe it at first.”
She said she didn’t see the item on the agenda, otherwise she’d have attended the meeting.
“It just has to be repealed. I just can’t accept anything less than that,” Wrightman said.
But Mayor David Bolton said everything was above-board and a careful read of the agenda would have twigged interested residents the turbine fees would be up for discussion.
Posted online a few days before the meeting, the agenda includes a clickable link to the clerk’s eight-page report. On page 7, below a page of delinquent tax payments and several pages lauding staff for safety certification, is a survey of other municipalities’ turbine fees. No recommendation accompanies the chart.
“Staff did the research. The research was in our package for the 16th,” Bolton said. Based on the survey, “we interpreted that to suggest the fee that we were discussing was adequate.”
Bolton said council debated the issue for about 20 minutes.
He said municipalities aren’t allowed to charge fees higher than cost. “The Municipal Act only allows us to recover our costs. It doesn’t allow us to make money on it,” he said.
The process council followed was appropriate, he said, because council asked for public participation at an earlier meeting as required. “We feel that we did everything according to the way the Municipal Act reads.”
Coun. Kurtis Smith disagrees. He abstained from voting because he says the proper process wasn’t followed. The bylaw wasn’t listed in the bylaw section of the agenda and the public wasn’t aware the issue was up for discussion, he says.
Green energy giants NextEra and Suncor plan to build as many as 68 wind turbines in the Adelaide Metcalfe area in two separate projects.
Bolton said formal application from the turbine companies is expected any time and without the revised bylaw, the township would have been allowed to charge its previous fee of $500.
Minutes of the meeting posted online don’t reflect any motion, seconder, debate or vote on the issue, although it does indicate first, second and third readings on the building permit bylaw took place. Bolton said those are unofficial minutes, not yet approved by council, and they’ll fully reflect the process by next meeting.
Turbine opponents say wind farms raise a host of possible health concerns for humans and migrating birds.
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