A plea for more control over GEA projects

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Weeks after Premier Dalton McGuinty and his cohorts seemingly dug in their heels on the issue at Queen’s Park, Clearview Council passed a resolution Monday night requesting, as many municipalities have before them, that the Ontario government rethink its position on municipalities having no ability to zone or issue building permits for green energy projects within their boundaries.

The resolution, crafted by Councillor Thom Paterson after Council received a similar one from Mulmur Township two weeks ago that didn’t encompass all of Clearview’s concerns, read as such:

“Whereas the Province of Ontario, through the Ontario Power Authority (OPA), is moving forward with its commitment to review the Feed-In Tariff (FIT) Program; and whereas the stated purpose of the review includes the consideration of issues related to local consultation and the renewable energy approval process (REA); And whereas the Township of Clearview is in general support of the concerns expressed by the Township of Mulmur in their resolution passed on November 01, 2011 and forwarded on to the Minister of Energy for consideration as part of the OPA review of the FIT program; And whereas the REA process, as currently being implemented, limits the ability of Municipalities to comprehensively review and comment on matters normally within their purview and now specifically excluded as they pertain to alternative energy projects.

“Therefore be it resolved that the Province of Ontario be requested to establish limited, complementary responsibilities for Municipalities under the Green Energy Act, thereby ensuring that alternative energy projects address local municipal issues to better balance the interests of ratepayers with the needs of the Province to encourage investments in new clean energy in Ontario.

“And further that the Province be requested to establish direct consultation with municipalities, perhaps through the offices of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, AMO, to discuss concerns regarding building permitting and zoning matters with the objective of better addressing these issues in the Provincial process.

“And further that the Township staff be directed to circulate this resolution to the appropriate Provincial agencies, our local MPP, AMO, the NEC, NVCA, Mulmur Township and to the other rural and small urban municipalities in Ontario.”

While the resolution is correct that the province is currently undergoing a two-year review of its Green Energy Act, with one of the goals being to an “assessment of government policies and tools to ensure that Ontario remains a center of manufacturing excellence and clean energy job creation,” the digging in of heels has been happening on several fronts lately, including the Liberals’ recent quashing of the Local Municipal Democracy Act, a private-members bill put forth by a member of the PC caucus that would have placed jurisdiction over green energy programs back in municipal hands. Even more recently, Premier McGuinty balked at his government’s 2011 Auditor’s Report, which was heavily critical of the way the Green Energy Act has been administered.

This information led Clearview Deputy Mayor Alicia Savage, always one to speak bluntly about sensitive subjects, to signal her hesitation in passing Paterson’s motion Monday night. While she said she’d be alright with a request for more building permit control to ensure the safety of infrastructure, she noted that including a request for zoning control sounded like a “backdoor” approach to obstructing the development of industrial wind turbines. To that, she registered not only her disapproval, but also her belief in the futility of such a motion.

“This isn’t going to go anywhere,” said Savage. “The province has been so clear. If you really think, Councillors, that we’re going to be able to zone for wind turbines in this municipality, you’re sadly mistaken.”

Paterson, however, stressed the inclusion of the words “complementary” and “limited” in the resolution, and explained his view that zoning is a positive thing, not a bad thing. “This just asks that we can give these projects passage through our zoning bylaw,” he said, “and that bylaw would be able to test the suitability of a project on a given piece of land.”

When asked for his opinion of the resolution’s wording, Clearview planning director Michael Wynia approved, saying that “a focussed effort” on behalf of the Township would lead to better siting. “This would give us a greater role,” he said. “Maybe not a full role, but at least a greater role.”

With that, the resolution was passed by a slim margin, with Councillors Paterson, Shawn Davidson, Doug Measures and Brent Preston and Mayor Ken Ferguson casting their votes in favour of the motion, resulting in a 5-4 vote.

A Visit from Collus

Ed Houghton, president and CEO of Collus (Collingwood Utility Services), paid a visit to Clearview Council Monday night to bring everyone up to date on the company’s quest to sell 50 per cent of itself to a larger electricity delivery company. Currently, the town of Collingwood owns 100 per cent of Collus.
The situation is of interest to Clearview because Collus delivers electricity to Creemore and Stayner, pipes water to Alliston through the pipeline that also services New Lowell, and runs the sewage treatment plants in Creemore and Stayner.

Houghton explained that, foreseeing a time in the near future when the provincial government would decide to cut down on the number of local distribution companies, the company decided that it needed to merge with someone to become bigger.

He also noted that part of the criteria in the company’s Request for Proposal was that the new investing company would have a similar culture as Collus.

Burn Permits to cost $10 in 2012

Council debated long and hard Monday night about how much annual burn permits should cost beginning next year.

Up until now, burn permits have been free, but Clearview Fire Chief Bob McKean explained that his department now hoped to use the permits to pay for the administration and occasional fire calls required to deal with permitted fires.

McKean’s proposal was for permits to cost $15 per year, but Mayor Ken Ferguson, Deputy Mayor Alicia Savage and Councillor Brent Preston predicted a sizable backlash at that price. (Last year, by the way, there were 1,200 permits handed out.)

Others, however, felt that the higher cost was in line with neighbouring municipalities and was suitable.

Eventually, Savage introduced an amendment to the original motion, adjusting the price from $15 to $5. That amendment did not pass. Councillor Shawn Davidson then proposed $10, and that amount was passed.

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