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West Lincoln to set turbine fees

If only it were as easy as picking a number.

In that case, West Lincoln council members would just pick a big one. But, under provincial legislation, the fees municipalities set for development charges must be justified. Council heard this both from consultant Gary Scandlan of Watson and Associates and the township’s chief administrative officer, Derrick Thomson.

“There are limitations under the Development Charges Act for how far we can go,” Scandlan, who was tasked with updating the township’s development charges bylaw as it relates to industrial wind turbines.

“The charges here are within a realm of substance,” said Scandlan. “If they were presented to the [Ontario Municipal Board] we could defend it.”

Scandlan presented the township with two options for development charges for turbines.

The first would see wind farm operators pay $693 per turbine. This amount was based on charging an industrial charge for the deemed gross floor area of the structure.

The fee presented under option one was much too low for members of West Lincoln council, who favoured the second option – though it was still not high enough for most councillors.

Option two would see wind turbines charged equivalent to single residential dwellings. The charges imposed under this option would represent future costs related to roads, administration and fire. Under this option, developers would have to pay a fee of $3,797 per wind turbine.

Municipalities across Ontario utilize both options for charging developers of industrial wind turbine projects. The municipality of Southgate, for instance, utilizes option one, charging $795 per wind turbine. Melancthon also uses this method, charging $2,067 per turbine. Amaranth has the highest turbine development charges, based on the second option, charging $7,563 per wind turbine.

Wainfleet also charges for wind turbines based on the residential dwelling rate, setting fees of $3,918 per wind turbine.

“There are so many potential future costs that we might not be able to recover,” said Councillor Sue Ellen Merritt. “Seven hundred dollars leaves us no room at all. Option two is the only direction I will support.”

Councillor Joanne Chechalk suggested the township set a much higher fee which could then be negotiated down should it be appealed. However, Thomson said an appeal hearing would not be a negotiation, it would consist of the tribunal looking at the background studies used to set development charges.

“It’s based on the service level and documentation provided,” said Thomson, noting it would likely be ruled in favour of option one, meaning the township would received less than $700 per wind turbine.

Thomson also warned council about holding back from making a decision Monday. The charges would only be applied to one of two wind turbine projects on the books for West Lincoln. IPC Energy, which received Renewable Energy Approval under the Green Energy Act last month, has already applied for building permits for its five-turbine, HAF Wind Energy project. Thomson said if council did not act fast, it could miss the boat on setting development charges before Niagara Region Wind Corporation receives its approval and applies for building permits.

While he said it was unlikely that should happen before council meets again in September, he warned not making a decision could mean council has no say on what NRWC is charged.

While all of council agreed on setting development charges based on option two, the development charges bylaw as amended was not approved Monday. Because the bylaw prepared by staff was based on option one, a new bylaw would have to be drafted to reflect the rate council chose to charge wind turbine developers.

The new version of the bylaw will either come before council at the September council meeting or the mayor could call a special council meeting to deal with the matter in a more urgent manner.