Constructing an Industrial Wind Turbine in Bluewater could cost up to $1.35 million after council decided in a unanimous vote to increase the building permit fees on Nov. 5 in front of a crowd of about 120 people.
The municipality went without a building permit fee for wind turbines after the old fee schedule was rescinded and the new one didn’t include a dollar amount for turbines because council couldn’t agree on the cost at its May 28 meeting.
Coun. John Gillespie suggested bonds or securities be implemented for decommissioning of turbines, for legal fees, economic development and that wind proponents enter into a roads agreement and respect the setback bylaws of the municipality and have transmission lines be buried. His motion to attach this to the building permit process also passed unanimously and will come back to council as a bylaw at a future meeting.
Councillor-at-large Tyler Hessel chaired the meeting after Mayor Bill Dowson, Deputy Mayor Paul Klopp and Coun. John Becker declared a pecuniary interest before the discussions.
While discussing the fee proposed by Chief Building Officer Tim Masse of $5 per KW councillors Geordie Palmer and John Gillespie suggested that $10 per KW would be more appropriate.
The $10 figure put councillors near where Hal March of the Bluewater Shoreline Residents association suggested the municipality should be. He suggested that Bluewater charge $15,000 per turbine and that a $5 million security be put in place for decommissioning and property devaluation. Dave Griffiths, the second deputation and president of Bluewater against turbines, suggested the municipality take a stand against the Green Energy Act.
He wanted to see the fee set at $200,000 minimum for each turbine “in order to maintain the vitality of our community now and in the future,” he said, adding it would set up a roadblock until the next elections happens.
“If you are going to be threatened by the letters sent from the big wind energy companies, if you are going to be frightened to take a stand against this disaster, trust me, our community will suffer… and you will have failed in your duty as an elected leader in the Municipality of Bluewater,” he said to a standing ovation.
Derek Dudek, community relations’ consultant from NextEra, representing the proponent for the Bluewater Energy project and the Goshen Energy project, told council the municipality’s proposed formula of cost per KW was not something the company had encountered. Usually, he said, the fees are based on construction costs instead of turbine output. The proposed formula by Bluewater, also puts the fees above what the company typically paid.
After Dudek spoke, Coun. Gillespie asked Dudek a number of questions.
“Is NextEra prepared to put up performance bonds of $220,000 for decommissioning of turbines?”
“The short answer,” Dudek responded: “Is no.”
Gillespie also asked about a $25,000 economic development fund per turbine per year, $100,000 for illness or loss of property values, $100,000 for roads, $100,000 for legal expenses, whether the company would burry transmission lines and whether they would adhere to the Bluewater bylaw about setbacks.
Dudek told Gillespie that he would have to talk with his company about some of those issues.
After the meeting in a telephone interview, Gillespie told The News-Record the decision made by council is a step in the right direction.
“Bluewater is in a no-win situation. Turbines have been a divisive issue for the community as a whole and this is an attempt to slow down the implementation process to give the provincial government some time to rethink the Green Energy Act,” he said.
The motion also protects Bluewater as a legal entity.
“We’ve decided to use of building permit fees to establish reserves against negative consequences in the form of bonds or insurance… The groundwork is in place to protect itself,” he said.
It’s necessary, said Gillespie because each project is a separate legal entity, making it easier for the company to dissolve.
But Gillespie also admitted there is a legal risk to passing the motion.
“I would expect the development companies to take us to court over the building permit fee. It’s a no win situation.”
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