by David Meyer, Wellington Advertiser
Councillors here have shot down a proposal to double the building permit fees for wind turbines from $10 per $1,000 worth of construction to $20. That’s because some of them want to investigate the possibility of doubling those fees yet again. Deputy Chief Building Official David Kopp was asked by council to find out what other places are charging for building permits for wind turbines. He brought his report to council on June 14.
It stated regular residential fees range from $7 to $10 per $1,000 worth of estimated construction value. Farm fees are $10 to $15 per $1,000, and commercial and industrial ranges from $15 to $20 for that same $1,000 in construction value.
Kopp then told council the average cost of a wind turbine tower is $180,000, and it costs another $305,000 on average for the concrete foundation – for a total of $485,000 in estimated construction value.
He recommended increasing the permit fee from the current $10 to $20. That would double the fee from $4,850 to $9,700.
Kopp said he had checked a number of municipalities and their fees per $1,000 of construction are:
– Centre Wellington, $12;
– Minto, $9;
– Wellington North, $10 plus $200 per turbine;
– Guelph-Eramosa, $11;
– Erin, a flat fee of $1,000;
– Puslinch, $10;
– Chatsworth, $40 per turbine over 100 feet high, otherwise $15 per $1,000 of estimated value;
– West Gray, $15;
– Brockton, $20;
– Georgian Bluffs, $20;
– Ashfield Colburne Wawanosh $12;
– Huron-Kinloss, $15;
– Kincardine, a newly set fee of $20;
– Chatham-Kent, $13; and
– Dufferin County, a $5,000 flat fee per turbine.
Kopp said the fee Mapleton charge has to reflect the costs of the building department.
Councillor Jim Curry asked if the building department is responsible for inspections of the base or the entire tower.
Kopp said he is unsure. Curry asked him about the Chatsworth fee, and asked, “What do you have to do to inspect these?”
Kopp said with large steel structures, “I wouldn’t be climbing them.” He said that was the same situation as a recent Wallenstein Feed building in that community.
Curry asked him if he had any discussions with Chatsworth about why that municipality set a fee for towers over 100 feet high. Kopp said he had not done that.
Mayor Bruce Whale noted three other communities have set fees at $20. Kopp said $20 is the recommendation from the building department.
Whale asked if the township is liable if a turbine blows over. Kopp said the towers would be scrutinized by an engineer.
Chief Administrative Officer Patty Sinnamon said the township can ask for an engineer’s certificate when they are built.
Kopp said of an engineer’s inspection, “We are relying on [the engineer’s] comments.”
Councillor Andy Knetsch said, “If that tower blows over, NextEra [the company proposing the wind farm] is on the hook.”
Whale concluded council had asked Kopp to find the costs, and, “He came back with an extensive list.”
Curry offered an amendment that any towers over 100 feet be charged $40.
Sinnamon said council is not permitted to amend an official’s report, but it could set fees that it wishes. Any changes to the permit fee bylaw would require public notice and then can be debated at a public meeting.
Whale agreed, and said acceptance that night does not actually set the fee – but just sets the process in motion.
Curry said council also asked about decommissioning of the towers, and he wondered if the building department has that information.
Kopp said it is still working on that. Sinnamon said that will be part of a document that she is preparing.
Councillor Neil Driscoll said he would be upset if he supports $20 and it turns out to not be enough.
Curry said council still has to complete the fees process, and argued to set them now.
Councillor Mike Downey wondered what a three week difference would be, and added, “I agree, you want to put it to these people.”
Curry argued, “We don’t know what needs inspection.”
Downey said of the Chatsworth fee, “I think they picked a figure out of the sky.”
Driscoll said council does not know the costs. He said if the building department has to go on the towers to inspect them its officials will need training. “That doesn’t come cheap. If we hire an engineer, where do we recover those costs?” he wondered.
Kopp said the township would receive $9,700 per turbine, and there are ten of them.
But Downey noted they are going to be “built start to finish in three months.”
Sinnamon added an engineer will not be constantly on site.
Driscoll said, “This is not a house construction. There’s tons and tons of rebar.”
Whale said the inspector does not inspect rebar in houses, either.
Kopp cited the Dufferin County fee of $5,000 and said he believes it is “in line.”
Driscoll asked if anyone has asked Chatsworth why it set its fees the way it did.
“What does Chatsworth know that we don’t?” he asked.
Whale said probably less than Mapleton council, because there are no turbines in that area, and none proposed for there.
Knetsch said Ashfield Colburne Wawanosh charges $12, and that area has a lot of experience with turbines. “I don’t believe it’s ethical to charge $40 per $1,000 right off the bat,” he said.
Whale said council could ensure it is covered through liability insurance “if we have to inspect.”
Sinnamon said the township “has to show due diligence.”
Whale wondered if the township will be relying more on outsiders.
Sinnamon said it generally does, because when it comes to steel, the township relies on engineers.
Council then defeated Kopp’s recommendation of $20, with Downey in favour, and Driscoll, Curry and Knetsch opposed.
Council then went into a lengthy discussion about what the next step is to be.
Whale finally concluded council did not have to make a decision that night, and it will consider the issue again on June 28. Council also planned to discuss the turbines at a special meeting on June 21.