Dufferin Wind Power Inc. has dropped the expropriation bomb.
A little more than one week after county council agreed to revisit negotiating a rail corridor easement agreement with the wind farm developer, Dufferin Wind filed for expropriation to the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) on Friday (July 19).
Dufferin Wind intends to build a 230 kV transmission line along the county-owned rail corridor running from its 99 MW wind farm in Melancthon to Amaranth. Both the 49-turbine wind farm and transmission line have received provincial approval.
Permission to build the transmission line requires Dufferin Wind to have land agreements in place with any affected property owners before construction can begin. Those property owners include the county and a number of private landowners found in Dufferin.
“To construct the transmission facilities in accordance with the route approved in the Leave to Construct decision from the OEB, Dufferin Wind Power requires an easement along the former rail corridor to allow for a power line,” Connie Roberts, spokesperson for Dufferin Wind, said in an email.
Dufferin Wind could seek to acquire the land in two ways. It could successfully negotiate agreements or choose to expropriate land through the OEB.
After going back-and-forth with Dufferin Wind for nearly two years, county council decided to sit back down at the negotiation table again on July 11.
Dufferin CAO Sonya Pritchard hadn’t been able to meet with Dufferin Wind officials until Wednesday (July 24), when she was told they had filed for expropriation.
“They knew we were still interested in talking. They’d been made aware,” she said. “At the same time, Dufferin Wind had previously made it clear that they were going to start the expropriation process.”
Pritchard doesn’t believe the recent turn of events should stop the county from attempting to negotiate a pact with Dufferin Wind. Avoiding expropriation is in the county’s best interest, she said.
For starters, expropriation could hit the county’s pocketbook. The potential legal costs associated with a lengthy expropriation process could be exorbitant.
Additionally, any compensation gained by the county through expropriation likely wouldn’t be as financially beneficial as it could if a mutually agreeable land deal was struck.
“Financial compensation is based on a fair market assessment of the property,” Pritchard said, referring to expropriation. “Through negotiation, you never know what you might get.”
Dufferin Wind did offer the county a one-time payment of $420,000 for the use of its rail corridor back in February of 2012.
That may not be in the cards anymore, as the threat of expropriation has essentially stripped the county of any bargaining power it may have had.
“It is our preference to acquire the necessary transmission easement on a voluntary basis through negotiations with Dufferin,” Rebecca Crump, director of development for Dufferin Wind, said in a statement emailed to The Banner.
“Negotiations with Dufferin County are ongoing,” Roberts added. “We want to make assurances that once an agreement is reached, the application for expropriation will be withdrawn.”
Of course, the county isn’t the only party with the cloud of expropriation hanging above them. A number of private landowners could be subject to the same process as well.
So far, Dufferin Wind has managed to reach agreements with 17 of the 20 private landowners found along the section of its proposed transmission line route running from Melancthon to the county-owned rail corridor. The wind farm developer plans to expropriate land from the remaining three.
In its expropriation application, however, Dufferin Wind argues it has tried to negotiate with all affected landowners.
“(Dufferin Wind) consulted with, presented offers to and negotiated with the relevant landowners,” Dufferin Wind officials wrote. “Despite lengthy negotiations with the county, no agreement has been reached.”
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