A Wainfleet resident called for the immediate resignation of two alderman and the mayor over the granting of $40,000 to help Skydive Burnaby with legal fees related to an Environmental Review Tribunal hearing.
Dan Augustine was one of three delegations to appear at Wainfleet council Tuesday, Jan. 14 to make presentations on the grant.
“The purpose of me being here this evening is to express my outrage, total disgust and despair with a council that continues to squander and waste taxpayers hard-earned money, out of control and out of touch with Wainfleet taxpayers,” said Augustine.
He said council is now involved in another useless lawsuit that will cost taxpayers more money.
Wainfleet Wind Energy Inc. recently filed court documents to take the township to court over the $40,000 grant, calling it bonusing and saying that it went against the municipal act.
Augustine said council lost to the wind company over its two-kilometre setback bylaw last year and had to pay $74,0006.60 in court costs.
And combined with legal fees of $116,083.49, the township was out $190,090.09, which could have been used for things like roads or arena work, said Augustine.
“I’m not alone in my anger.”
He questioned why council allowed Skydiver Burnaby co-owner Tara Pitt to appear before council on Dec. 10 without prior notice, as required for delegations.
Augustine said council approved her request without seeking any staff advice, or hearing from the public.
“Why did council approve it in such a hurry, why wasn’t it deferred? I don’t understand the urgency.”
The fight, Augustine said, is between two private firms.
In addition to calling for the resignation of Mayor April Jeffs and Alds. Betty Konc and Richard Dykstra, Augustine said council should reverse its decision, come up with a communication plan, listen to the people of the township and take some ethics courses.
“It’s obvious you lack ethics,” he said.
Joan Anderson stressed her opposition to the $40,000 was not a platform against wind turbines.
“It’s purely a fiscal concern about the use of taxpayer money,” said Anderson.
She asked township treasurer Robyn Madere for the cost of the fight against wind turbines to date
The figures showed that from 2012 to to Sept. 13, 2013, Wainfleet spent $193,600 fighting turbines, and $66,645 in court costs awarded to Wainfleet Wind Energy for the setback bylaw loss.
Anderson said she recognized council was trying to address residents’ concerns over wind turbines, but felt it was time to move on.
“Enough taxpayer money has been directed at this single issue.”
Anderson said council acts as money manager for residents and wondered how much it was willing to allocate to the turbine fight.
She asked council to defer the issue and get staff and legal advice and protect taxpayer money.
Outspoken wind turbine opponent Andrew Watts said he’d rather not see council spend the $40,000, but added, he didn’t really see any other option.
Watts viewed the grant as an extension of the township’s fight against wind turbines, and viewed council as trying to protect residents against possible health effects and property devaluation.
“These things will be visible for 29 kilometres … practically every property in Wainfleet will have a view of them.”
Watts said if someone was looking for a house in the country and there were two identical properties, but one had a view of turbines, common sense would dictate buyers would go for the house without the turbine view.
“I’m quite happy if you spend us into the ground. If you don’t, then Wainfleet is dead,” said Watts.
Ald. David Wyatt, who was not at the meeting when council voted to give the $40,000 to the skydiving club, asked if residents would like to see the tax base decrease each year.
Wyatt said he knows of a person who can’t sell their home because the turbines will be in view.
“That makes that property worth nothing.”
Mayor April Jeffs said legal counsel for the township is looking into the issue, which has divided the township.
“I have never seen a room divided such as this,” said Jeffs in front of a packed council chambers.
She told residents that council believes it is protecting the municipality by helping Skydive Burnaby, and doing its utmost to fight for citizens.
“Nothing has been given to anyone at this point,” she said, adding the issue will be back before council at its next meeting, Tuesday, Jan. 28.