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Picketers assemble at wind farm open house

AMHERSTBURG – A second open house was held by Gengrowth pertaining to a wind farm they are proposing just north of Malden Centre but those who live in the area were ready to air their views as well.

A group of area residents picketed outside the Amherstburg Community Church where the open house was held and held up signs and gave out pamphlets to any passing motorist that was interested. Gengrowth is proposing the five wind turbine South Side Wind Farm for the area. The wind testing tower is currently situated in that area, near the intersection of Concession 6 South and South Side Road.

“It’s a community effort. We’re just trying to make people aware there are two sides to every story,” said Jeannette MacCorquodale. “We’re asking for responsible placement.”

Migratory birds, property values, proximity to schools and natural areas, human health, setbacks and flicker effect were among the concerns raised by the picketers.

Cathy Botek did not think wind turbines belong in Essex County, believing that this area is too densely populated. It was questioned by the picketers that if their property values were to decline, who would cover the difference.

The picketers said people were supportive, with many honks from passing motorists. The general public was cautioned that if they want to speak up on this issue, they should do it before it gets too late.

“We’re running out of time to react,” said Kara Browning. “If people want to learn about wind turbines, they have to get their knowledge now. We’re literally running out of time.”

“People should know the facts and make and educated decision,” added Botek.

The group has retained local lawyer Anthony Leardi, who will speak to both county and town councils on the matter.

Paul Merkur, president of Gengrowth, said this was an open house to further update the public and to allow for additional public input. Merkur said he personally hadn’t heard a lot of negative reaction but did hear some concerns from residents in the area. He said they know of the natural features of the area and are working towards finalizing studies including a study into the birds and bats that fly in the area.

“We have to follow a comprehensive Environmental Screening process under the Environmental Assessment Act,” said Merkur.

Merkur said Gengrowth is “very aware” of the avian issues of the area and “we’re taking that into account when we do all of our studies.”

As far as proximity to homes, he said they plan on meeting all provincial and municipal guidelines on various issues including noise and setbacks. He said they will continue to work with authorities and government officials to comply with all guidelines.

“The reality in southwestern Ontario is we’re developing primarily on agricultural farmland. The population density is relatively similar in a lot of locations in southwestern Ontario,” he said.

While picketers and other residents were saying their questions weren’t getting answers, Merkur disagreed with that assessment.

“We respond to all calls and e-mails,” he said, adding they have a toll-free number and that the municipal process will also involve input from residents. “We’re here to answer questions.”

The next step in the process for Gengrowth is to complete EA documentation with that planned for June. In August, they plan to issue a Notice of Completion with 30-day review period. They would apply for applicable permits and approvals in the fall, something Merkur acknowledges could be subject to an Ontario Municipal Board appeal. If approved, construction would occur next spring.

By Ron Giofu
The Amherstburg Echo


8 May 2008