Any new wind turbines built in Dufferin won’t spin in the breeze for cheap, as they once did – at least in terms of development charges (DCs).
As Dufferin revamps its DCs bylaw, county council plans to enter a brave new world where wind turbines and those charges meet. If approved next month, Dufferin could be the first municipality in Ontario to collect DCs based on a volumetric approach, which could land the county about $3,938 per turbine.
“My opinion is $4,000 isn’t a lot of money for a wind turbine,” said Orangeville Deputy Mayor Warren Maycock. “That’s what we should be asking.”
Currently, Dufferin is eligible to collect DCs based on gross floor area (GFA) relating to wind turbine projects, which results in a $6.06 charge per square metre. Since wind turbines don’t occupy a large amount of space, the current model doesn’t add a lot to Dufferin’s coffers.
“Wind turbines generally have a small floor plate compared to a warehouse, a factory or a retail store for example,” said Jason Bevan of Hemson Consulting Limited. “The rates can be relatively small.”
As Bevan explained, wind turbines weren’t really contemplated when the province’s Development Charges Act was implemented in 1997. As a result, municipalities across the province are beginning to charge more DCs for wind turbine projects.
“It is kind of a new area,” Bevan said. “Of course, many counties and area municipalities have been receiving applications over the last 10 years for wind turbines.”
For example, a bylaw recently brought into effect by Grey County will start charging a flat rate of $5,000 per turbine starting next year. Once that phased-in approach comes into force, Grey will be eligible to collect nearly the same amount of DCs per wind turbine as it does for a single family home.
County officials had asked Bevan to suggest some alternatives to its GFA model. He presented council with three options on Thursday – stick with the GFA status quo, collect a rate of $1,127 per turbine or calculate charges based on volume.
Although Bevan wasn’t aware of any municipality in Ontario adopting a volumetric approach, council is eyeing that route.
“They have a large impact on the community,” Melancthon Deputy Mayor Darren White said in arguing for the higher charge. “But very little net benefit.”
Of course, it can be tricky determining how much DCs wind turbine proponents should be charged. While road, and perhaps even ambulance, services may apply to wind turbines, it’s hard to measure the proper amount.
Although $5,000 in DCs per turbine may seem high, Grey County’s bylaw wasn’t subject to an appeal when passed in 2009.
“If we have to defend that ($3,938) charge, then that is what we have to do,” Maycock said.
If council approves its new DCs policy next month, any wind turbine projects with building permits already won’t be impacted. Only wind turbine projects without building permits after the bylaw comes into effect would be subject to the new charge.
County council may not stop at wind turbines though, as it also asked its consultant to look into charging DCs for solar energy systems as well.
“It’s extremely difficult. … There is not much legislative structure on those charges at the moment,” Bevan said. “I’m not aware personally of any municipality that has a special charge on solar facilities.”
Despite that, Amaranth Mayor Don MacIver felt the county should levy charges against all energy projects, including solar projects. As he explained, solar energy systems occupy a much wider area of land than wind turbines.
“They’re going up faster than the turbines,” MacIver added.
When it comes to collecting DCs, the county faces a greater dilemma on the solar front. At this point, ground solar projects aren’t classified as buildings, explained Dufferin’s chief building official Mike Giles.
“I believe it is going to come into the code, but as it stands right now, the Ontario Building Code doesn’t recognize solar panels,” he said. “They don’t require a building permit, and if we did recognize them, it’d be difficult.”
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