“There will be no benefit for the municipality if wind farm projects move forward.” ~ Michael Anderson, Project manager for the Meaford Economic Development Strategy
by Stephen Vance, Meaford Independent
Representatives from International Power Canada (IPC) attended council on Monday May 9 to make a presentation intended to bring council and the public up to date with the status of their Silcote Corners wind farm project.
IPC Vice President David Timm and Tim Sullivan – the IPC project leader responsible for the Silcote project told council that the project which was initiated in 2007 currently sits on the Economic Connection Test (ECT) list with the Ontario Power Authority awaiting approval.
IPC is currently conducting field work which includes vegetation mapping, significant wildlife habitat and breeding bird studies. Once they have met all of the requirements, and if they are successful in securing a contract, IPC hopes to have the 26 turbine wind farm constructed and operating sometime in 2013 or 2014.
Timm said that IPC has optioned 4,000 of acres of land with property owners for the project.
“But of course we’d only need a portion of that,” said Timm who insisted that there are no plans to expand the project beyond the proposed 26 turbines.
As part of their presentation, the IPC representatives ran through a list of the economic benefits that Meaford will experience if the project moves forward.
They suggested that there will be a short term injection into the local economy during the construction phase for local motels, restaurants, and retail outlets, and that as many as six full time jobs will be created for post-construction maintenance of the operation.
Additionally, Timm said that $350,000 to $450,000 will be pumped into the economy via payments to landowners where the turbines will be located.
When asked by Deputy Mayor Harley Greenfield how many landowners would benefit from those annual payments, Timm informed council that approximately 10 landowners would receive land lease payments.
“This benefits a pretty small circle,” Greenfield commented.
Later in the meeting Director of Planning Rob Armstrong provided council with an update of the work that municipal staff has been doing with regard to renewable energy and the various processes to be undertaken as well as the potential impact on the community.
Included in his report to council was an independent report prepared by Meaford resident Michael Anderson which tackled the issue of the economic impact on the municipality of wind power generation operations.
In that report Anderson – who was the project manager for the Meaford Economic Development Strategy (MEDS) task force which brought several members of the community together in 2009 to establish a framework to work toward economic success in Meaford – said that there will be no benefit for the municipality if wind farm projects move forward.
According to Anderson, any additional property tax revenues generated by such facilities will be at best offset by the drop in property taxes as a result of lower property values for those properties in close proximity to wind farms.
Anderson also said in his report that wind farms are likely to have a negative impact on tourism, agri-business, and retail operations which are the three major industries in Meaford.
“Are wind turbine projects of economic benefit to Meaford? Regardless of whether or not we think subsidizing wind projects is good provincial public policy, or whether or not we think there are health consequences – are these the right projects for our municipality? On the basis of this review, the answer has to be an unequivocal no,” wrote Anderson in his report.
Members of council who are clearly having to walk a fine line on the issue of wind farm developments, passed a resolution requesting that the provincial government delay all wind turbine developments until proper and full consultation with Ontario communities can be carried out.
Council also gave Armstrong the green light to explore whether or not thousands of acres in Sydenham – where the Silcote Corners wind farm will be located – can be added to the Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC) jurisdiction which would essentially halt any future proposals for constructing wind farms in that area.
Armstrong told council that he will bring a full report which will outline the process and associated costs to have land in that area placed under NEC control.
Armstrong told reporters after his presentation that much of the 4,000 acres of land that IPC has optioned was contained in the original proposal for the NEC when the commission was established.
Armstrong estimated that it would take approximately four months in order to obtain approval, but he could not say with any certainty whether projects approved prior to land coming under NEC control would be allowed to proceed or not.