| Mar 18, 2015

Addington Highlands to go slow on wind project

At their Denbigh meeting on March 16, Addington Highlands Council passed two motions in response to a request for municipal support from NextEra Energy for a 200 MW wind project in the Denbigh area (District 1).

The first motion was based on the concerns expressed by Ward 1 councilors, Tony Fritsch and Kirby Thompson, about the potential impacts of the project,

At the council meeting, which was chaired by Deputy Reeve Helen Yanch in the absence of Reeve Hogg, Fristch and Thompson presented a six-point document. The document said that “prior to making any decision to support or not to support the wind power project,” the municipality should: determine accurate public opinion on the proposal; understand the legal ramifications; understand the impact on future development; understand environmental impacts; and ensure that the municipality understands the “community support” aspect of the provincial procurement that NextEra is seeking.

It also says that if the project goes forward, “The area that is negatively affected by the eyesore and development restrictions should at least benefit from the financial compensation provided for this impact,” and that a development agreement be established “prior to issuing any building permits.”

Among the issues raised in the one-page document are the “esthetic impact on the scenic rural setting of ward 1, which will be negatively impacted for generations (forever),” and also, who will cover decommissioning costs at the end of the lifespan of the turbines.

This first motion passed by council deferred any desiciotn on supporting the proposal until the items mentioned in the docment are addressed.The second motion was to meet with North Frontenac Council, who are also considering a proposal from NextEra, to talk about the implications of the project to the two townships.

NextEra is seeking support from the township for a competitive bid they are planning to make to hydro authorities for the installation of up to 100 turbines in the township.

And they are offering significant compensation to the township if the project moves forward.

A letter from Ben Faiella, a project manager with NextEra, was also included in Monday night's agenda. It clarified the financial implications of the project to the township. “The total approximate annual property taxes would be $450,000” he said in his letter, double the amount that had been included when NextEra made a presentation to Council earlier this month.

Of that amount, 42%, or $189,000, would be township revenue, and the rest would be go to County and Education taxes. In addition, the NextEra officials said the company would make an annual payment of $350,000 to the township during the 20-year life of the project, giving the township a net benefit of $539,000 each year.

The 2013 Addington Highlands budget included taxation revenues of $2.2 million from ratepayers.

Support from the township, which needs to be secured by the end of June, would give NextEra valuable points in the grading system used by the province to determine which projects will be approved in a competitive bidding process for the pruchase of wind power.

When asked about the project after the meeting, Councillor Fritsch said that he is not taking a position “for or against” the project at this point.

“I just want to make sure, as part of my job as councilor, that the public is informed about all the implications,” he said.

To that end, he has asked NextEra to send one or two representatives to a public meeting to be organised locally to discuss the project.

This meeting is in addition to a public meeting that NextEra is planning to organise in May.

Other items from AH Council

The township has been invited to attend an Open House by the Mazinaw-Lanark Forest Inc. at the Barrie Hall in Cloyne on March 28 from 10 am to 3 pm.

Building department costs taxpayers $30,000

A report from Clerk/Treasurer Christine Reed detailed the costs of the township's building department. The department costs over $60,000 to run, including $35,000 in salary and $12,000 in mileage costs.

Net revenues from building permits totalled less than $31,000 in 2014, leaving a net loss of $29,575 for the department. A $35,000 loss was budgeted for in 2014.

Municipalities in Ontario attempt to run their building departments on a break-even basis as far as taxpayers are concerned, with building permit revenue covering all costs. Small municipalities find this difficult to achieve.

Addington Highlands is less likely to achieve a break-even position than other municipalities. It is unique among local municipalities in that it waives permit fees for commercial development in the hopes of attracting more investment and raising more tax revenue in the long run.

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