| Jul 09, 2015

AH Council rejects “unwilling host” motion

In the end, Tony Fritsch was able to buy time, but he did not win the vote that counted the most.

In front of a crowd of over 100 loud supporters in the normally quiet confines of Addington Highlands Council, Fritsch read out both a motion and a postion paper supporting it.

The upshot was a proposal that would have pre-empted the debate over whether to consider requests for support from from NextEra or RES-Canada for wind turbine projects in Addington Highlands.

“Now therefore be it resolved that the Council of The Corporation of the Township of Addington Highlands will not provide a Municipal Support Resolution for any Industrial Wind Turbine Project; and that Council declares the Township of Addington Highlands as ‘Not a Willing Host’ for Industrial Wind Turbine projects,” read the operative clause in the motion.

Councillor Kirby Thompson seconded the motion, and then said that “he has thought long and hard about the matter” and has come to the conclusion that the position taken by opponents to the proposals “is convincing and I feel that wind projects are not appropriate for our township.

Deputy Reeve Helen Yanch said that she has been accused by people who oppose turbines in the township of having a conflict of interest and should not vote on the matter. She co-owns, with her husband, a gravel pit in the township, and since wind projects lead to road construction which will require gravel, she has a conflict of interest.

“All I can say is that this is ridiculous, and I will not recuse myself from this vote,” she said. The township has sought legal advice on the matter as well, the News has learned, which concluded that there is no “pecuniary interest” in Yanch owning a gravel pit and voting on the turbine issue.

In a recorded vote. Councillor Bill Cox, Deputy Reeve Yanch and Reeve Hogg voted against the motion, Councillor's Fritsch and Thompson in favour, and the motion was declared defeated by Clerk Christine Reed.

What followed was a chorus of boos and shouts, leading to a five minute recess being called. Three OPP officers, who had been at the back of the hall, took positions at the front. It took about ten minutes for the meeting to re-start.

Addington Highlands neighbour, North Frontenac, which was approached by NextEra, one of the companies that is making a proposal in Addington Highlands, declared itself an “unwilling host” for wind projects last month. North Frontenac Mayor Ron Higgins, as well as Councillor Vernon Hermer, were in the audience at the meeting.

They, along with most of the audience, left during the recess.

After the recess, a motion to provide “support in principle” for the two wind turbine projects that re before Addington Highlands Council was read into the record. NextEra is proposing a 77 turbine |(up to 200 megawatt) project in the township, and RES-Canada has a 40-60 turbine (up to 170 megawatt) project in the works.

Before the motion could be debated, Tony Fritsch moved that it be deferred. Kirby Thompson said that he “was a bit too overwhelmed right now with all that has happened to concentrate on this”, and supported the idea of a deferral. The other three members of Council agreed and it was decided that a special meeting to consider the “support in prinicpal” motion be held on July 20th at 9:00 am, in Flinton at the Recreation Centre.

If approved on the 20th, support 'in principle' would give the township and each of the companies 6 weeks to complete negotiations and finalize “Community Vibrancy Agreements”, so that a final motion of support can be passed before the companies submit their bids to Ontario's IESO (Independent Electrical Service Operator)

Bids that include a motion of support from the local municipality will receive added points when the IESO opens the bids.

After a set of public negotiations last month, Res and NextEra have both offered over $10 million in direct compensation to the township over the 20 year life of the projects if they win the bid and end up building in the township.

Interestingly enough, the member of Council whose intervention can be most credited with doubling the offers from what was initially on the table from both companies, is Councillor Tony Fritsch. It was on his recommendation that the council asked each of the companies to for twice as much as they had initially offered. And they each complied with the request.

However, if Addington Highlands does support one or both of the projects, they will be turning their backs on another economic development offer. This one was proposed by a relatively new township resident, Scott Annan, at the start of Monday's meeting.

Annan is an Ottawa-based IT entrepreneur who founded Mercury Grove, a software company and startup incubator, guides.co, a website for lifestyle guides, and an active leader in the Ottawa technology sector, who has been a seasonal resident on Ashby Lake since 2013.

Saying that the township should not be trapped into looking at an either-or scenario, with one side being preservation of the environment and the other one being economic development via wind-turbines. He proposed a third option. Through a special tax levy, whereby residents will pay between $40 and $100 extra on their tax bills over a 5 year period, he said the township can raise its own “community vibrancy fund”. This fund, coupled with $5 million in investment dollars from Ottawa based entrepreneurs that Annan said has already been committed, and more to come, the township will be in a position to foster its own economic development.

He proposed that the initiative be anchored by a $40 million lodge and conference centre to kick start a 4 season tourism sector. Further initiatives “could include micro-breweries, artists, agri-food, tech & research “field offices”, accommodation & tourism-based businesses,” he said in a Power Point Presentation.

A preliminary meeting regarding this initiative was held two weeks ago at Hunter's Creek golf course, which was attended by MPP Randy Hillier and North Frontenac Mayor Ron Higgins as well as community members. Invitations to the meeting were sent by email to the Reeve and Council members from Addington Highlands, but at the last minute, for which Annan apologized to Council.

Although it was not stated in Annan's presentation, he confirmed to the News, via email, that at least as far as his participation in the initiative is concerned, support by the township for the current wind turbines projects is not compatible.

“Unlike some other proponents for economic development, neither I or other members of interest want to dictate terms - we want to work collaboratively with town council and all stakeholders,” he wrote in reference to the two companies. “Having said that, if they refuse to collaborate and sign agreements that result in over 100 industrial wind turbines to the area against the communities wishes, it doesn't make sense to continue the plan or to invest time and money in the region,” he added.

Other delegates before Council included Dan Carruthers and Charles Birchall. Carruthers is also an Ashby Lake resident who has been active in both BEARAT (Bon Echo Area Resients Against Turbines) and the economic development initiative that was outlined by Annan. He spoke briefly about the pitfalls of the projects and then introduced Birchall, who is the lawyer that BEARAT has retained to fight the projects.

Birchall outlined the steps that the projects would have to undergo if they win the IESO bid. These include a number of environmental assessments, and potential avenues.

“Wind projects tend to lead to litigation” said Birchall, referring to the case that he is closely identifies with, the Ostrander Point project near Picton that recently had its environmental approval revoked over impacts that a service road would have on a local population of Blanding's turtles, which are on the “Species at Risk” list in Ontario.

Support local
independant journalism by becoming a patron of the Frontenac News.