Wainfleet will have to pay $74,006 in legal costs to Wainfleet Wind Energy Inc. after its two-kilometre wind turbine setback bylaw was ruled invalid in a St. Catharines courtroom in late April.
The costs were awarded to Wainfleet Wind Energy Inc. recently. Lawyers for the company originally sought costs of $111,000 to be paid by the township.
Mayor April Jeffs was disappointed by the decision, but pleased the township doesn’t have to pay Wainfleet Wind Energy’s full costs.
Wainfleet had been taken to court after a lawsuit was filed by the law firm of Aird and Berlis LLP in July 2012 on behalf of Wainfleet Wind Energy, which is looking to install a number of wind turbines in the township. The company is owned by the Loeffen family and Tom Rankin, CEO of Rankin Construction, who bought into it in 2012.
The lawsuit was in relation to the bylaw which called for a two-kilometre setback of wind turbines from residences, instead of the 550-metre setback allowed by the province under the Green Energy Act.
Legal costs incurred last year – $41,764.76 – were paid for out of operating funds. The township set aside $50,000 in a reserve at the end of 2012 and put another $50,000 into the 2013 budget to pay for any other costs. As of March this year, the costs were $72,603.22. The costs, factored in with the court costs of $74,006 will see the township with a shortfall of $46,600. The shortfall will be funded by operations if there’s a surplus at end of 2013 or by using funds from a reserve.
Jeffs said despite the turbine bylaw being ruled invalid, not illegal, and the awarding of legal costs, she and council stand behind the decision to enact the bylaw in the first place.
She said there are residents in Wainfleet that are absolutely terrified of having the industrial wind turbines pop up around the countryside.
“People still stop me all the time and talk about it.”
In addition to Wainfleet Wind Energy Inc., Niagara Region Wind Corp. is looking to install turbines in the north end of Wainfleet.
“There are studies out there that say wind turbines are fine … but there are also studies that show they aren’t.”
Jeffs said people use European countries as an example to show turbines don’t cause problems, but she said those turbines pale in comparison to ones proposed to be installed in Wainfleet. She said the ones here are much larger.
A majority of residents, she said, are opposed to turbines and worry about health affects and possible property value loss.
Jeffs said she was recently asked by someone in the community how she could sleep at night knowing she was spending taxpayer dollars on the fight against the turbines.
“I said I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I didn’t do all I could for the residents and municipality.”
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