Landowners to hold meeting May 3 on 500kV hydro line

Tom Murtagh says landowners are frustrated with Hydro One offers for properties along the Bruce-to-Milton hydro corridor, some of which he claims are $150,000 below fair market value.

Murtagh, who lives on 17th Sideroad and is one of about 40 property owners in Erin affected by the proposed 500 kilovolt power line, told the Advertiser the company is not playing fair.

“They just will not negotiate,” he said of Hydro One’s offers for buyouts and easement rights.

He is part of a group of about 75 to 100 landowners organizing a meeting this weekend to update municipal representatives on the situation. The meeting will be held on May 3 from 1 to 3pm at the Holstein Egremont Optimist Community Centre.

Hydro One has proposed a  $635-million, 500kV power line from the Bruce power faci­lity near Kincardine to its swit­ch­ing station in Mil­ton – a distance of about 180km. The corridor will pass directly through Erin and the northeast corner of Wellington North.

Hydro One project manager Gary Schneider said on Tuesday afternoon his office has received an invitation but has yet to make a decision on whether it will attend the meeting this weekend.

Schneider said Hydro One has always committed to offering fair market value – plus incentives – as decided by an independent appraisal and based on comparable sales in the area.

He explained the company is not negotiating the principles on which offers are based, but that certainly does not mean the company is issuing “take-it-or-leave-it” proposals.

“Nothing could be farther from the truth,” he said.

For example, he said municipal representatives from Southgate Township have indicated offers there were less than expected and they provided additional information to back up their claims. That feedback is being considered  by Hydro One officials “as we speak” to decide if adjustments are needed, he added.

Schneider also said if landowners specifically have a problem with the “injurious affection” portion of the appraisal – the possible decrease in the value of the retained property – Hydro One offers a second appraisal at its own cost (up to $7,500).

If the “fact-based evidence” indicates a change is necessary, Hydro One will make it, he explained – if not and the parties agree to disagree, the matter can go before an independent arbitrator.

And if the landowner does not like the offer at all, Schneider says they have every right to go to the expropriation process.

“We fully respect their decision, regardless,” he said.

But Murtagh said his group, which started out with six members and has grown fast, feels Hydro One appraisals grossly underestimate the decrease in property values that will result from the new power line. He added Hydro One does not consider the time it may take to sell a property.

Murtagh maintains about a third of the properties in a buyout situation – where a residence is located inside the corridor or within  75 metres of it – have received offers “well below market value.”

He said a lot of farmers are worried they will not be able to relocate elsewhere and noted the popular annual Holstein Rodeo is threatened because the property on which it is held will be affected and owners say the venue cannot be moved.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture will be well represented at the meeting, Murtagh added, and eight of ten mayors “from Hanover to Halton” will also attend – including Rod Finnie from Erin and Mike Broomhead from Wellington North. He also noted the group will make a separate presentation to Wellington – Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott.

The Bruce to Milton line – the largest expansion to Ontario’s transmission system in 20 years – will be built alongside an existing line and will require a corridor that is 53 to 61 metres in width.

Two additional units at the Bruce complex, as well as several new wind energy projects coming on line in the near future, necessitated the line, which is expected to be in service by 2012. Hydro One is currently waiting for environmental assessment approval from the Minister of the Environment.

“Certainly we’re hoping for a decision by late spring, early summer,” Schneider said.

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