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McDonald to declare conflict in wind projects

By Valerie MacDonald, Northumberland Today


The mayor of Alnwick / Haldimand Township has informed fellow councillors he is declaring a conflict of "pecuniary interest " when matters pertaining to two proposed wind turbine farms come before council this week.

While the money-related conflict Mayor Dalton McDonald has identified is only applicable to one of the proposed Clean Breeze projects, because they are so close together he is taking this stand in order to avoid any appearance of conflict, he said in an interview this past weekend.

Each project consists of at least five wind turbine towers, one located near Centreton (referred to as the Nelson properties) and the other near Grafton (referred to as the Aird property), McDonald said. But those people living between the projects, and who have concerns about both won't likely discern the difference as it relates to him declaring a conflict about just one, especially when there is the same developer involved, he added.

It wasn't until a recent public meeting held in Roseneath by Clean Breeze for the Grafton-area project that a map put on display by the wind farm proponent showed the location of the two wind turbine projects in the township, the first of which could be in operation by next year if all provincial-level okays are received.

There has been a constant outpouring of opposition to the projects and a grass roots organization, the Alliance for the Protection of the Northumberland Hills, is very active.

It is the Centreton-area project where McDonald said he has a pecuniary interest and conflict of interest, because he rents farming property near the south end to the Dejong family, opponents to the wind turbine proposals.

McDonald also said he owns property adjacent to the other end of the Centreton-area proposal and from higher elevations behind his home he believes he could see the proposed towers.

This proximity to the project could be seen as a conflict of interest, the mayor said.

As yet, the wind farm proponents haven't been to council seeking what limited municipal support can be given under the Green Energy Act, McDonald said. Most municipal-related planning authority was eliminated by the provincial government with the Act setting rules related to where such projects can be developed and how far from residences. Most recently, however, some changes were made that allow some municipal leverage (such as indicating specific or general support for various forms of green energy) although all final decisions still rest with the higher level of government.

"They keep changing the rules on this," he said.

Some requests for this kind of municipal support is coming to this week's council session, McDonald said.

It was for this reason he wanted to make known to his council and the public that he would not be taking part in discussions and declaring a conflict.

"I didn't want to look like a coward…. My job as mayors is to keep the peace and balance in the community," he said, adding that he feels a little guilty about doing so.

Having given a lot of thought to the situation, however, McDonald said he now must declare a conflict of interest.

Asked why he didn't do so when council discussed and passed a new bylaw of tariffs which requires, for the first time, a $2,000 charge to developers of alternative energy projects in the township asking for council support and which require staff time to research them before hand, McDonald said at the time "it never even occurred to me."

That bylaw is of a generic nature applicable to all green projects, he said, and the provision that includes a public meeting allowing for questions and answers provides equity for both sides.

McDonald stressed that he has not wanted to declare a conflict of interest but believes he can't do otherwise although he said: "I feel guilty about walking away" from this "hot issue."

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