Some thoughts from Dan Carruthers:
- The three members of Council who support the introduction of Industrial Wind Turbines (IWTs) into Addington Highlands (Hogg, Yanch and Cox) have not once made a case for this support. There have been no speeches, no open letters to the media; nothing. Public representatives should not behave this way, particularly on such a contentious issue. If you want to vote against the majority of the people you represent, then at least make a case for it. If your reasons to support are noble and beneficial to the Community, tell us why we’re all wrong and and you’re right.
Contrast this behaviour with North Frontenac, where Mayor Ron Higgins put out an excellent position paper on why their Council voted 7-0 to not support the turbine proposal. He made a case against; where is our Council's case for?
- Last week, North Stromont joined North Frontenac and the more than 90 Townships across Ontario in declaring themselves an Unwilling Host to IWTs. Looking at our Council from this context, there are two scenarios: either all of these 90+ Townships made a terrible mistake, or ours just did. Which is the more likely of the two scenarios? Like North Frontenac, each of these Townships did their due diligence and arrived at the same conclusion: by any metric, Industrial Wind Turbines are not welcome.
When Tony Fritsch put forward his motion for due diligence, it was shot down by Council. Here was an opportunity to regain some badly needed confidence of the Community, to establish a reasonable time frame for proper due diligence, to stand down while the Township develops its own policies for renewable energy projects within its boundaries, and to establish safeguards for the Township and landowners against the negative aspects of these projects. Most importantly, it would have put the balance of control back into the hands of Council and the Township. By not doing this, Council has ceded the entire control of the project, and the terms of the engagement, to the proponents. As a result, the Township is no longer in control of its own economic development agenda.
- The current Council did not have a mandate for this project. At the time of the last election, there was nothing of this magnitude on the horizon, so the Community didn’t feel a strong need to vet their candidates against any particular issue. If the turbines were a threat at the time of the last election, and given that by multiple measures more than 80% of the population is against them, it is reasonable to conclude that the three supporting Councillors would not have been elected.
It is also reasonable to conclude that none of these three Councillors stand any chance for re-election. Between now and the next election, the Community will certainly rally to put forward a slate of more appropriate candidates for the times.
- The three supporting Councillors have repeatedly demonstrated a lack of necessary business skills to handle an issue of this magnitude. When you’re in over your head, you should ask for help. You should not autocratically plow ahead and ignore Community engagement.
Ostensibly their support is based on the apparent revenues that will be generated for the leaseholders and the Township. In any business, revenues are always offset against operational and other costs. If these costs are higher than the revenues, you should vote no on the project.
The supporting Councillors are ignoring the offset costs and only see the revenue side of the balance sheet Included in the cost side are the inevitable reduction in property values and tax revenues, the effects of the Township being re-branded the “turbine township” and the impact this will have on the Township’s ability to diversity its economy and attract meaningful investment, the negative impact it will have on the seasonal property owners (their largest source of property tax income), the environmental damage, the costs associated with road and other infrastructure repairs, the costs of defending against multiple legal challenges, and more.
The 90+ Townships that considered these same issues all concluded that the costs overwhelmed the promised revenues. The trend of economic decline in the Township is going to accelerate.
- However absurd, let’s assume for the moment that the promise of revenues, with no offsetting costs, is sound. What case is being made for the urgent need for this revenue? What is the vision of the three Councillor’s for this no-costs windfall? New hockey arenas? Helipads on every lake? A statue of Henry Hogg on every corner? None of the three Councillors have ever made even the smallest case for why the Township should sacrifice itself to a massive scale of environmental destruction and upheaval for such little gains.
- Here is a copy of the so-called Vibrancy Agreement that Council now officially supports. Councillors Henry Hogg and Bill Cox were on the negotiating committee. Of note, they made no material changes to the agreement beyond what was proposed by the proponents. Having given provisional support to the agreement in advance, they lost all of their leverage before the negotiations even started. Recognizing this weakness, these Councillors have been completely played by the proponents. Council looks like a bunch of chumps.
- The Township has not done very well in attracting investment for the past few decades. Under Henry Hogg’s leadership, there has been a steady decline in the Township’s prosperity. This recent turbine crisis, however, has brought skilled and highly connected business people to the cause and there’s a real opportunity to turn things around.
Some of the Councillors have said “we’ve tried all this”, but they didn’t have the same level of support from the investment community that they do now.
Unfortunately, now that Council has passed the support resolutions, any chances of meaningful, economic diversification, has died for the next 20 years. We know that turbines don’t create long-term jobs. and they certainly won’t create the conditions for keeping young people from leaving the Community. The decline under Hogg continues.
- Councillors who support the turbines are putting the landowners who signed leases at risk. BEARAT has received multiple calls from landowners who signed leases, and now want out of them. These landowners will receive revenues, but as stated before, the revenues have to be evaluated against the offsetting costs and legal complications.
Among the issues: The proponents have the right to “enlargement”. You may think you’re getting one turbine, but may end up with five. The terms of the lease are between 20 and 50 years. They’re binding the use of their land for more than two generations! There are no limits on the levels of disturbances. Don’t like the noise? Too bad. Shadow flicker and blinking lights a problem? Tough. There will also be a reduction in property values. The few thousand dollars in taxable income from the turbines will be offset by the tax-free loss in capital gains on their primary residence. Additionally, the turbine companies can assign their leases. The existing companies may have strong covenants and promise to decommission the towers, but the next companies may not. The costs of decommissioning will be borne by the landowners and will run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars per turbine.