Mayor April Jeffs wasn’t surprised by the latest lawsuit filed against the township by Wainfleet Wind Energy Inc.
“We weren’t expecting it though,” she said Thursday.
The lawsuit was filed on Dec. 31 by the law firm Aird & Berlis LLP on behalf of its client, Wainfleet Wind Energy Inc., and is over $40,000 granted by the township to Skydive Burnaby.
The money was granted at the December 10 council meeting to help Mike and Tara Pitt, owners of Skydive Burnaby, pay for legal costs related to an Environmental Review Tribunal hearing currently underway.
The tribunal is being held after the Pitts appealed the wind energy company’s project on Station Rd. where two turbines would be sited. The couple say the turbines could hurt their skydiving business.
The township was served notice Tuesday, said Jeffs.
“We’re going to meet in closed session on Tuesday (Jan. 14) to get advice from our lawyer,” the mayor said.
The lawsuit, which has yet to come to court, claims the funds are a form of bonusing to Skydive Burnaby.
A court document said council does not have the power to grant the funds to a private business under a Section 106 of the Municipal Act.
That section says no municipality shall assist directly or indirectly any business through the granting of bonuses, which includes giving or lending any property of the municipality, including money.
“The provision of $40,000 from the Township to Skydive Burnaby Ltd. is an obvious financial benefit,” the court document said, adding it is in clear contravention of the municipal act.
The lawsuit seeks to have the council resolution declared without force or effect, that the township recoup any funds already paid to the Pitts and Skydive Burnaby, and that court costs be covered by Wainfleet.
“I firmly believe this is not bonusing. We’re not giving one company an unfair advantage over another company. We’re helping a company, and residents, who are trying to protect their business and property. We’re supposed to protect people,” Jeffs said.
Jeffs said the lawsuit filed by the wind company, owned by the Loeffen family and Tom Rankin, CEO of Rankin Construction, is consistent with how it deals with those opposed to wind turbines.
It marks the second lawsuit against the township by the company in the last two years. The last lawsuit was over a turbine set back bylaw and the courts ruled against the townshop and the bylaw.
“We’re consistent on our stance (against turbines),” said Jeffs.
She said when council, with the exception of Ald. Ted Hessels, agreed to give the funds to the Pitts, there was a real backlash.
“I didn’t expect that, when it hits it’s not pleasant to have people upset at you.”
But since the initial backlash, Jeffs said a number of people have have expressed support for the council decision.
“People I’ve never heard from before or met have said, ‘We don’t want these turbines, we’re scared of them’.”
Jeffs said the funding given to Skydive Burnaby will be discussed at council on Tuesday, Jan. 14. “There’s a delegation coming to speak on it,” she said.
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