Why is Lambton County considering becoming embroiled in a potentially costly legal battle outside of its own jurisdiction?
Several county politicians have raised this question in light of a request to join a potentially precedent-setting Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge on the issue of wind turbine development in Ontario.
Representatives of several anti-wind turbine groups appeared before council earlier this month, asking the county to become an intervenor in a case launched by property owners Shawn and Trisha Drennan.
The Goderich-area couple is attempting to stop further development of the K2 wind farm near their property until Health Canada finishes its current study on the impacts of industrial wind turbines.
But a report prepared by county solicitor David Cribbs has raised red flags about the county becoming involved in the case.
Anti-wind activists who appeared before county council asked for a $20,000 commitment to the legal costs.
However, Cribbs has learned the $20,000 estimate was actually only for document assembly, meaning the money would only cover putting the county’s case together for intervenor status.
A more realistic estimate would be $50,000 to apply for intervenor status, according to Cribbs’ report. If the county does participate in the Charter challenge, Cribbs estimated the county could face a bill in the $100,000 range for a 10-day hearing.
“We now realize that $20,000 doesn’t do anything,” Coun. David Boushy told fellow committee members Wednesday. “If this committee wants to support this crew, we’re looking at $100,000 to $200,000. I think you count on over $200,000 and anything over $100,000 I’m not supporting it.”
However, Plympton-Wyoming Mayor Lonny Napper questioned the estimate prepared by the county.
“I think the $20,000 is realistic in talking to (representatives of the case),” he said. “I think you used the worst case scenario.”
Cribbs also uncovered that the Township of Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh council declined a request for financial and political support of the case.
Property owner Shawn Drennan also appeared before Huron County council to speak to the case, but he didn’t make an official request for either financial or political support, according to the county staff report.
“I understand Huron County (council) hasn’t spent a penny on this and here we are spending county time and staff time on something outside of Lambton County,” said Brooke-Alvinston Mayor Don McGugan.
St. Clair Township deputy mayor Peter Gilliland questioned why council was even spending time on the matter.
“I think we’re wasting a lot of time on this because we know what’s going to happen,” he said. “We’re not going to do it.”
Coun. Jim Foubister agreed.
“I see no value at us as a council and the people we represent in getting in at the $20,000 level,” he said.
However, deputy warden Bev MacDougall reminded committee members that the county had already agreed to set up a meeting with the representatives who appeared before council.
County warden Todd Case will be meeting with the group Sept. 25. A final decision on the matter is expected at the next county council meeting Oct. 2.
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