WAINFLEET – The township is facing another lawsuit in its ongoing opposition of wind turbine projects planned for the community.
And this time, Wainfleet Wind Energy Inc. is hoping to nullify the township’s Dec. 10 decision to pay the $40,000 legal bill for Skydive Burnaby, the local business leading the fight against a nearby wind turbine project.
Wainfleet Wind Energy represented law firm Aird & Berlis LLP, launched the lawsuit Dec. 31.
Besides being one of the developers who are working to build the wind turbine project, wind turbine developer Tom Rankin said he’s also a Wainfleet property-owner who’s concerned about how his tax contributions are being used.
“We just think it’s wrong to start subsidizing a small sector of the economy. We just think it’s wrong,” he said. “I’d like to think I’m representing taxpayers that are pretty upset about that whole shenanigan of giving someone $40,000 to fight an appeal. That’s my take on it. I’m a taxpayer out there myself. I own property there, and some of our employees own property there and I’ve talked to a number of other people and they’re pretty upset.
“You don’t just start giving out grants to people in the community like that. That’s nonsense,” Rankin said. “Not a lot of thought went into it, I can tell you that much.”
Rankin said the company’s lawyers are currently busy dealing with other matters, but the lawsuit will be before the courts “sooner rather than later.”
A hearing is scheduled for March 6 at 10 a.m. in a St. Catharines courtroom.
The lawsuit will also force the township to recoup any funds paid to Skydive Burnaby, and cover all court costs.
In 2012, Wainfleet Wind Energy successfully sued to strike down a township bylaw calling for a 2 km setback from wind turbines, rather than the 500 metre set back required as part of the Green Energy Act.
Mayor April Jeffs said the township will discuss the issue during an in camera meeting, prior to Tuesday’s council meeting.
“It’s disheartening that we’re back in the same boat again,” she said. “I think we’re trying to uphold what we were elected to do, to protect our citizens and residents. We’re trying to help them defend their business.”
Although Skydive Burnaby and its owner Tara Pitt were identified within the township’s resolution to provide the $40,000, Jeffs said the financial support is for a “group of citizens along with Skydive Burnaby who are part of this Environmental Review Tribunal.”
“It’s not just them,” Jeffs added, referring to the business. “There seems to be some confusion about that.”
Ald. Betty Konc said she’s expecting to see a lot more legal battles before the issue is finally resolved.
She said at least one area resident has attempted to launch a lawsuit against the developer, seeking compensation for the adverse impact the wind turbines could have on property values.
“There is potential (for a civil lawsuit), down along the lakeshore in particular where those two turbines are potentially going to be sited,” she said referring to the turbines planned for Station Rd.
Konc said she conservatively estimates that there are about 800 properties on the lakeshore who will be affected by the turbines.
If the value of those properties is reassessed and reduced by MPAC, “the township is going to suffer a $500,000 a year deficit in our tax base from the lakeshore for 20 years,” she said. “That’s $500,000 a year for 20 years.”
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