Niagara Region Wind Corp. has the right to use township roads for its wind turbine project and will explore other options if Wainfleet council isn’t willing to negotiate, company spokeswoman Randi Rahamim says.
Rahamim and lawyer Patrick Duffy, representing NRWC on behalf of the firm Stikeman Elliott, were in front of aldermen Tuesday night to talk about road use agreements and a vibrancy fund. Mervin Croghan, chair and CEO of Niagara Region Wind Corp., was in the audience, but did not speak.
While such agreements are usually conducted behind closed doors, earlier this year Wainfleet council decided to make the negotiations public and asked NRWC to make an appearance.
NRWC has applied to have up to 80 wind turbines installed in West Lincoln, Haldimand and Wainfleet. Of those turbines, 40 would go in West Lincoln, 30 in Haldimand and seven in Wainfleet.
“I’m a bit baffled about the process. We presented the agreements to Mayor April Jeffs and (then) planner Grant Munday five and a half months ago. We understand you want to negotiate in open session, but are unclear on how we do that,” said Rahamim, in front of about 50 protestors in the community room of the township fire hall.
Rahamim said the road use agreement would allow the company to move turbine parts and access the construction sites.
“The main purpose of a road agreement is to hold us accountable … for returning the road to its current, or better, condition,” she said, pointing to a 20-page document.
As for the vibrancy fund, that would see NRWC give money back to the community at a rate of $3,500 per megawatt. In Wainfleet’s case, that would be $89,000 a year, or $1.7 million over the lifetime of the project. There are also payments of $5,000 per kilometre for transmission lines.
Rahamim said the two legal documents were detailed and told council she couldn’t summarize them without missing details.
“Details are important. We’re here to answer questions and get guidance on what the next steps will be,” she said.
Jeffs said council heard from the public that negotiations should not be behind closed doors.
“With all due respect, we don’t even want to deal with this.”
She said council wasn’t sure how to proceed with the matter either in an open process, as it was new to both parties.
Duffy told the mayor and council that NRWC needs to move forward with the agreements to meet timelines under its contract and wants to work out terms before final government approval for the project is in place.
“It’s important to get the process started even if council is not going to give its approval,” Duffy said.
Jeffs said there’s frustration on the township’s side because it doesn’t have a large staff to deal with the issue.
“This is uncharted waters for the municipality and staff. We don’t want to make mistakes … we can’t go in blindly and take what you say at face value, no disrespect.”
The mayor suggested waiting to see if NRWC’s projects are approved before moving forward.
Ald. David Wyatt made that recommendation, which was passed by council.
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