A former City of Chatham alderman has concerns about the amount of taxes levied against industrial wind turbines.
Henry Regts, who is also a developer, contacted The Chatham Daily News regarding a recent administrative report to Chatham-Kent council that stated a proposed 12-turbine project by Kruger Energy Chatham Optima Limited Partnership would generate an estimated $37,500 in annual taxes.
Noting he’s not opposed to wind turbines, Regts said he doesn’t believe nearly enough taxes are being charged for the large structures.
He points to his office building, which is valued at just under $500,000 and costs nearly $20,000 a year in taxes.
Noting the revenue each of these turbines must generate in a year, Regts said, “they ought to be assessed 10 times higher than what they are.”
He acknowledged turbines don’t use services such as water and sewer, but they are large structures that take a toll on roads when transported through the municipality to where they are erected.
Regts said these turbines are also tying into the local electricity grid.
“I want them to pay the same taxes we’re paying for similar services,” he said.
Chatham Coun. Doug Sulman agrees with Regts’ assessment of the situation.
“No, they don’t pay their fair share,” he said Monday.
Sulman, who is a lawyer, cited the law office he and his partners own in Chatham is less than 5,000 square feet but their tax bill is higher than what Regts pays for his office “by a long shot.”
Mike Turner, Chatham-Kent’s chief financial officer, said administration was being “very conservative” in its estimates of tax revenue from these projects.
“We didn’t want to tell council we were going to get all this money (for the turbines) if we weren’t,” he said.
Turner said the taxes levied on the turbines will definitely be higher than the original estimates.
It is actually the landowners who are charged the taxes for the turbines, however, there are deals where the companies pay the taxes.
Turner said the more than 400 turbines in Chatham-Kent have been a “contributing factor” to recent assessment growth, adding the municipality receives more than $2 million annually in taxes from the structures.
Recently, Chatham-Kent has been able to receive community benefits worth millions of dollars by agreeing to be a “willing host” to proposed wind projects.
The Kruger proposal will pay $2.2 million and the North Kent Wind Project will provide $4 million to municipal coffers as a community benefit. Both deals also include maintenance contracts for Entegrus, the municipal-owned electrical utility.
Regts said he understands why council wants this money, but noted, “it’s a bribe by another name, that’s what it is.”
Sulman said these community benefits will only be paid if the wind projects are approved by the province.
An amendment was made to the Green Energy Act when municipalities weren’t moving fast enough on wind farm proposals, that gave the province the authority to approve the projects.
However, prior to that, Sulman said he suggested to administration that Chatham-Kent be charging a host community fee.
“We do that at the landfill site, so why wouldn’t we do it with these things?” Sulman said. “This is a way to make some money for the taxpayers.”
He said administration was going to look into host fees, but noted that may have changed when the province took over control of the approval process.
Sulman believes the municipality should examine whether it can retroactively charge community fees on wind projects that are already operating here.
As for what Chatham-Kent is receiving for community benefits, he said
“Who says that’s the right amount?
“It sounds like a lot, but if you think about how much (companies) make over the lifetime of one of these (turbines), it’s a drop in the bucket,” Sulman added.
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