Wind turbines are turning neighbour against neighbour and Essex town council is caught in the middle.
Farmers who have signed property leases for wind turbine projects spoke of them at a special meeting Monday as a renewable energy of the future that should be embraced.
Those who will see and hear the 120-metre-high turbines – but won’t be paid for the experience – told council they fear negative impacts on their quality of life, including disturbed sleep and declining property values.
Even those who took the time to visit an operating wind farm near Port Burwell couldn’t agree on its merits. Some said the wind turbines were too noisy. Others had no problems with them.
“We did a lot of research on this venture,” said Gore Road farmer Murdo McLean, who signed a lease last September with AIM PowerGen Corp.
“If we thought the project would be damaging to the community or the farm, we wouldn’t do it.”
But Brenda Dunn said: “We need to err on the side of caution because once they’re up, we’re going to have to live with them.” Dunn and her husband visited the Port Burwell wind farm and thought the noise was disturbing.
About 40 people attended the meeting at Harrow Arena. No decisions were made.
“We as taxpaying citizens should be embracing wind energy,” said farmer Tom Lypps, who’s leasing some land to a project. He didn’t think his neighbours had any right to intervene.
“I would like compensation too,” said Colette McLean. She said the turbine projects should be paying any homeowner within three kilometres, not just those leasing land to them. “What will happen if land values will go down?” she asked.
McLean said countries that have greater experience with wind energy have come to realize its negative impacts and minimal contribution to effective power supplies.
“I’m in favour of wind towers,” said Colchester South farmer Dean Martin.
“I think it’ll fit in well with my farm. “I like the look of them.”
John Brush, who described himself as a “semi-retired farmer,” supported residents who called for setbacks between turbines and homes of at least a kilometre.
Felix Weigt-Bienzle also backed a neighbourhood compensation policy and thought the setbacks from homes should be at least 1.5 kilometres.
And he doesn’t believe first-class farmland should be used for the projects.
The Town of Essex is waiting for Essex County to finish its official plan amendments for wind and other alternative energy projects before finalizing its own policies.
One of the key issues looming is the minimum setback from wind turbines to homes outside the leased locations.
The divisive viewpoints make an Ontario Municipal Board hearing likely before any project gets approved.
27 May 2008