The already bitter relationship between Melancthon council and Dufferin Wind Power Inc. has gone litigious.
Of the many issues the township and wind farm developer will eventually need to iron out, one sticking point that will see the two sides arguing inside a Toronto courtroom next week revolves around where Dufferin Wind is permitted to store its wind turbines.
“It’s about Dufferin Wind, but it isn’t about Dufferin Wind. It’s a planning (issue),” said Melancthon Mayor Bill Hill. “It isn’t like we’re picking on Dufferin Wind. We’re saying follow the rules. They don’t want to follow virtually any rules.”
The basis for the dispute began several months ago, before Dufferin Wind had received provincial approval to construct its 99 MW wind farm in Melancthon, as well as a 230 kV transmission line along the county-owned rail corridor. Those provincial approvals were granted earlier this summer.
Back in March, however, Dufferin Wind informed Melancthon council that it planned to temporarily store its wind turbines at Strada Aggregate’s facility in Melancthon.
According to Hill, council determined that wouldn’t comply with the township’s planning rules. Melancthon officials informed Dufferin Wind that the storage plan would require a zoning or Official Plan amendment.
That advice, according to Hill, fell on deaf ears. Had Dufferin Wind asked for those amendments, he said council would have treated them just like anyone else making such requests.
“They didn’t even bother (to apply). They ignored our comments and they ignored our request,” Hill said. “We would have handled it the way we handle everything else. We would have processed it through the system.”
Under the Green Energy Act (GEA), however, Dufferin Wind contends it is exempt from receiving such approvals from the municipality.
According to Dufferin Wind spokesperson Connie Roberts, the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) has backed her company’s position as well.
“Dufferin Wind respectfully disagrees and believes this temporary storage facility falls under the purview of the Green Energy Act and is therefore exempt from local zoning requirements,” Roberts said in an email. “Dufferin Wind is seeking a declaration from the court to confirm this finding for the benefit of all parties.”
While it is widely known that the GEA strips certain controls over green energy development away from local municipalities, Melancthon council doesn’t believe it does in this case.
According to a planning opinion received by the township, the GEA doesn’t exempt the storage of wind turbines from the rules of the Planning Act.
“We’re saying there is no provision … You’ve got to apply,” Hill said. “They said, ‘You’re not interpreting it right.’ … We believe we are.”
Now, Dufferin Wind and Melancthon are scheduled to square off in a Toronto courtroom next week. Hill argued the township’s taxpayers are going to end up paying for a legal fight they may not have needed to.
“We would have hoped that they would have at least paid attention to what we said,” he said. “If they had followed what we asked them to do in March, here we are mid-July, this probably would have been resolved and turbines on the move, so to speak.”
Roberts said Dufferin Wind, which is owned by a North American subsidiary of China Longyuan Power Group Corporation Limited and Farm Owned Power (Melancthon) Ltd., aims to support local businesses whenever possible.
The court challenge is necessary to ensure the project’s wind turbines are stored locally.
“We look forward to working with Strada Aggregates and greatly appreciate their support,” Rebecca Crump, Dufferin Wind’s director of development, said in statement emailed to The Banner. “This process allows us to quickly address the township’s concerns and to keep as much of the project’s economic benefits here in Dufferin.”