Lambton Shores plans to use a development agreement to spare municipal taxpayers any unforeseen costs from industrial wind farms now in the planning stages.
Suncor Energy and NextEra have two large green energy projects planned for the community with over 100 industrial turbines being erected.
Residents have voiced opposition to the plans but have also raised concerns about the impact the construction will have on municipal roads, bridge and drains. But municipalities have little control over the projects since the province passed the Green Energy Act. It takes away the municipality’s ability to approve the projects or suggest placement of the turbines.
So Lambton Shores is going through the agreement it usually uses with subdivision developers, thinking of all the possible items to which could come up as the turbines are built.
Lambton Shores Clerk Carol Mackenzie says there should be an application fee for the projects to cover staff costs for dealing with the projects. She’s suggested $5,000. Councilor Doug Bonesteel isn’t sure if that would be enough for a review and questioned whether staff could analyse the documents – which are hundreds of pages long. He says the wind companies should pay for that.
“If we’re going to be given information from the wind turbine companies, they need to run by Ontario Professional Engineers Association to certify the information is true …spend their money to do it,” he says.
Mackenzie also suggests the wind companies be responsible to repair any damage to roads, road allowances, bridges and drains made by the heavy equipment used in construction. That would mean the municipality would have to take photos and videos of the turbines routes to make sure the damage was caused by the wind company’s equipment.
The clerk is also suggesting the wind energy companies be responsible for fighting fires at the turbines and training local departments to fight high-angle fires. The company may also have to provide equipment for that, she says.
The wind companies would also be charged development fees. Under the current structure, that would be just over $4,000 per turbine. Mackenzie says that is low considering the rates for other municipalities range from $15,000 to $200,000 per turbine.
Dave Griffith, the head of Bluewater Against Turbines, also urged council to charge a decommissioning fee for each turbine. “The big thing we need is a guaranteed reserve or bond from these company…They are limited liability corporations and they can go bankrupt at midnight and you have no recourse in the morning.”
But Mackenzie is still checking into the legality of the decommissioning bond.
While Councilor John Russell likes the idea of using development agreements to gain some control over the projects he believes the municipality should be preparing for the possibility the province’s Green Energy Act will be thrown out leaving the door open to more municipal control.
“We should consider putting in place a parallel comprehensive bylaw…as if the Planning Act had full effect,” he told council.
“Some municipalities are preparing parallel bylaws for when the Green Energy act is gone…or changed significantly enough to allow us to use the Planning Act.”
“You’re saying ‘be ready, in case we get our power back,’” says Lambton Shores Mayor Bill Weber.
Staff says it can prepare another bylaw.
Lambton Shores resident Karen Kelly-White is encouraged by the idea and suggested that bylaw include tougher restrictions including setbacks for turbines of two kilometers. “Yes, right now, as far as the Green Energy Act goes, you can’t enforce it…but you would be saying ‘This is the line we’re drawing in the sand…honour what we have now.’”
Lambton Shores’ staff will work on the development agreement and a parallel bylaw to bring back to council as soon as possible.
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