Wind Projects Information Meeting at Selkirk October 3 2013- Haldimand County Ontario

By Linda Rogers: October 3, 2013

It was a full house at the Selkirk Centennial Hall for the Information
meeting facilitated by Marnie Knight of Selkirk, who had arranged for two
speakers to come to the community to share information in the areas of their
expertise about the impacts of Wind development in Ontario. It was an
ironic juxtaposition of timing as Next Era Canada had just announced in a
press release that the commercial operation of the Summerhaven Wind project
located in Haldimand comprised of 56 turbines had been achieved. The next
project in the County now rushing to meet its Ministry deadline is the
Capital Power project. The Samsung Pattern Energy wind and solar project is
also gearing up for construction. Niagara Wind remains hopeful for its
renewable energy approval even in the face of mounting opposition.
Hundreds of turbines to stretch along the shores of Lake Erie. The
background for the meeting literally was a 360 degree viewscape of
uncountable number of turbines to the eye now overwhelming the small village
of Selkirk. Wind development was certainly was not creating a mood of
celebration in the standing room only crowd.

The first speaker of the night was Ben Lansink a Professional Appraiser who
discussed his research, published studies and his opinion about the
demonstrated devaluation of properties located near Industrial Wind
projects. He started his presentation with comments about the Not A Willing
host status local municipalities are declaring in response to Premiere’s
Wynne assurance that the new process for siting wind developments would
require community endorsement in any new approval considerations. In
Ontario the total on Communities on records is 70 and new declarations are
continuing to be added. Mr. Lansink also focused on the evolving legal
challenges playing out at the Environmental Review Tribunal, other
jurisdictions and how property values can or cannot be addressed in these
venues.

MPAC assessments for property owners are the basis for which Municipalities
set their taxation rates was a very timely subject for the people present.
The take home advice was for anyone within 2 miles of a wind turbine being
that they give serious consideration to requesting a re- evaluation of
their current property value assessment from MPAC. During the question
period lively discussion ensued about how the properties which are losing
value will impact all residents. Loss of taxation base due to lost
property value is an issue for all residents of Ontario, regardless if they
are rural or an urban dweller.

Next up was Eric Gillespie a Lawyer who has been involved in numerous wind
project proceedings for the past 5 years. He was also represented the
appellants in the recent win to revoke the approval granted for the Gilead
project at Ostrander Point. He discussed some of the legal hurdles and the
tests that must be meet at an Environmental Review Tribunal appeal. There
are only two basis of appeal at the Tribunal for a Renewable Energy project
which are 1) serious harm to human health will occur and/or 2) serious
and irreversible harm to plant, animal life or the natural environment will
occur. Only one wind project approval has been revoked to date and was
won on the basis serious and irreversible harm to the rare Blanding’s Turtle
and its habitat. That decision is now famous among opponents of Industrial
Wind Power worldwide. Turtle Power certainly rules at Ostrander Point.
The decision is currently being appealed both by the developer and the
Ministry of the Environment and is expected to be heard in the New Year.

Charter Rights is now a new issue being argued in at least 5 cases against
Renewable Energy projects powered by wind in Ontario. Mr. Gillespie shared
some of the evolving history of the numerous legal proceedings and discussed
another very active area of litigation being pursued. Numerous groups of
property owners are coming together collectively and are instigating legal
proceedings against turbine lease holders and wind developers. It was
asked by an audience member that since so many people are being negatively
impacted by the Wind Projects why wasn’t a class action lawsuit being
pursued for all residents being impacted (learn more about the similar case of Xarelto® Class Action | Current Lawsuit Settlements). Mr. Gillespie answered quite
honestly the time line to achieve the status for such a proceeding is
lengthy and even achieving status to being accepted to argue in court after
launching such an action can be about 5 years. Status that would have to be
granted before even bringing forth the merits of the case. The monetary
costs are also very high for this type of litigation. Time and money that
isn’t available or reasonable for those seeking remedy especially for harms
to human health.

The meeting attracted the attention and time of many politicians, such as
Mayor Jeffs from Wainfleet, Toby Barrett MPP for Haldimand Norfolk. Local
councilors Craig Grice of Ward 3 and Rob Shirton of Ward 5 were also
present. One notable missing in action person was Mayor Hewitt. Marnie
Knight quipped his email reply to her invitation was that he needed to
check his agenda as she said “I guess he is still checking it.” His
presence was represented on the screen as people watched the infamous
promotional advertisement he made several years ago for Samsung Renewable
Energy projects and promoted on their website for the Grand Renewable
Projects in Haldimand. Questions were also voiced and not fully answered
about the Community Vibrancy Fund that Haldimand Council has accepted from
the developers. The bulk of the monies which are being borrowed to spend
now. One question that lingered was, Do the people still have any input in
how it is to be spent?

The meeting at one point was starting to turn into an all candidates meeting
but what people really wanted was factual information about some options to
dealing with the Wind Projects now in their community. It was clear that
this issue is not one that is going to be forgotten at election time. The
turbines have started to spin in Haldimand but the mood at the hall was far
from acceptance and the closing theme being Uniting the Fight. It was so
bitter sweet to see such a large turnout for the meeting and to so many new
faces of concern. Turbines are turning but the fight is far from over.

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