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Turbine talk in the wind today; Jackson's plan up for discussion at meeting

Plans for a high, large wind turbine in south-Barrie are already facing hot air from neighbours.

It’s being proposed by Jackson’s Toyota, a Mapleview Drive West automotive dealership, but area landowners and businesses say the location is wrong and they also have concerns about its safety and size.

“Our understanding of this project is that the length of each blade would be similar to the length of a Boeing 737, and the area swept by the turbine blades equals the area of three hockey rinks combined,” said Michael Hassey of Hassey Development, which owns, or co-owns, about 50 acres of land near the dealership.

The city has received letters from six area landowners, or their agents, opposing the wind turbine.

A public meeting will be held tonight at 8 p.m. to hear a rezoning application by Jackson’s Toyota to allow the wind turbine to be built there. The application provisions relate to building a 123.5-metre high turbine, when height in this area is restricted to 14 metres.

“It is unimaginable for us to believe the city would even consider such an extreme exemption,” Hassey said.

Bob Jackson, owner of Jackson’s Toyota, says he disagrees with opposition to the project.

“It will be a landmark. People coming up the 400 highway will know where they are,” he said. “We have addressed the issues (concerns). “It’s going to be a win-win-win situation. I don’t think they (opponents) understand this.”

Whether a wind turbine belongs in this area will be the issue.

Robert Tuck of Key Investments, which is involved in two nearby subdivisions, said this isn’t the place for a wind turbine.

“I have sold land to business people in the surrounding area of the proposed wind turbine and told them that they were buying in a service industrial park,” he said, “not a wind turbine park.”

Rick Hoover of Starbath Wholesale, located right behind Jackson’s Toyota, also said it was the wrong spot for a wind turbine.

“(We) have a large concern for noise, as well as the total height of the turbine being an eyesore,” he said.

Jim Williams of Baytowne Hyundai, Jackson’s immediate neighbour, is worried about the proximity to his business.

“Potential problems of ice damage, and, particularly noise, are of great concern, as we have staff, customers and an inventory to worry about,” he said.

But Jackson says he owns an additional two acres of land near his dealership, and if he thought the turbine would affect property values, he wouldn’t build it.

“If I thought it would chase away my customers, or bother my staff, I wouldn’t do it,” he said.

“We have an environmental problem and need to address it.”

Wind power is a clean, renewable resource, and turbines reduce the need for electricity generated by fossil fuels, which contribute to global warming.

Jackson’s wind turbine would be connected to the city’s power grid. It would sit atop an 85-metre tower, and with the blade fully vertical, is 123.5 metres, or 401 feet tall. The turbine would produce enough electricity to power about 500 homes.

With regular maintenance, it has a life expectancy of 25-plus years. Jackson says it’s been a three-year process to get the project to this point, and the wind turbine carries a $2.5-million price tag.

A public meeting is one of the first steps in Barrie’s planning process. Once it’s held, city planning staff generate a report on the application and it is considered by city councillors.

By Bob Bruton

The Barrie Examiner

21 April 2008