It all started amicably enough, with Canadian Hydro’s spokesman explaining that the overwhelming majority of Wolfe Islanders were in favour of planting 86 Wind turbines on their land.
Then the screaming started. Neighbours against neighbours, residents against the company’s representatives. It wasn’t the breezy evening Geoff Carnegie had foreshadowed.
“We work things out by taking them to the community,” he said, speaking on behalf of absent chief executive officer John Keating. “Feedback ranges from the creative to the more opinionated.”
Last night’s open house at the Ambassador hotel was the second night in a row the company presented its vision to area residents. Tuesday, the company took its drawings to Wolfe Island to explain its vision to about 140 interested citizens.
As two women argued loudly last night in front of an image showing how the island would look after its transformation, Brent Shaw slipped away to study a map showing the location of each Windmill.
“This is Hatfield and McCoy stuff,” he said, as he watched his wife arguing about property values out of the corner of his eye. “All of this is the result of complicity. Now we are dealing with this.”
He said while many islanders support the project because they think it will be good for the economy, he worries his time on the land may be nearing its end.
“There’s a big wedge driven between people right now,” he said. “Maybe we’ll end up putting up a for sale sign.”
The Wind project is expected to generate enough electricity to power 75,000 homes. The $410-million undertaking still needs to obtain dozens of regulatory approvals, but Carnegie said the company has received zoning approval from the township council.
Public meetings have led to some changes in the project’s scope, including a decision to bury its transmission cable rather than string it up on poles once it reaches the mainland via an underwater cable.
Still, a group of citizens led by Sarah McDermott and James Day have challenged this approval at the Ontario Municipal Board, which hears appeals on property use on behalf of the province.
There’s no indication when the review panel will consider the citizens’ case, but Carnegie said the company expects the hearing to be held sometime in June.
If things aren’t sorted out by then ““ Carnegie said the sides continue to talk but no progress has been made ““ the project’s start date could be pushed back.
The plan calls for the construction of the turbines to be complete by the end of 2008, he said.
The tension between neighbours was evident as people wandered about the crowded space last night. Several people approached by the Whig-Standard wanted to talk but said they were afraid to give their names because they didn’t want to upset their neighbours.
Shaw said he’s been trying to stay relatively neutral and positive about the company’s plans for the island. But his opinion changed after he saw the graphically enhanced photographs that illustrated what the vista would look like once turbines are installed.
“I look out across the bay, and I’m able to watch a beautiful sunset while I’m in a hammock,” he said. “I’m not going to be able to watch anymore, that view will be obliterated.”
There are more than 30 Wind turbines planned for across his bay to the west side of the island, and many of them will be visible from Kingston.
Artists’ renderings took people aback, particularly one that showed a view from Confederation Basin. The image is of 17 of the large, triple bladed structures in the distance.
“I’m interested in things like alternative energy, but I’ve never seen pictures like that before,” said Robin Hutcheon, a Kingston native who is now studying environmental science at Trent University in Peterborough. “Now that they put it that way, I’m not sure what I think. I didn’t realize what the island would look like.”
by Steve Ladurantaye
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