The fight to stop the numerous wind turbines slated to go up in Haldimand County over the next two years is on.
The community hall in Fisherville overflowed Tuesday night with about 300 residents who came to listen to activists implore them to oppose the three projects planned for the county.
What they heard were tales of what can happen to those who live next to wind turbines: how the infrared invisible noise from the propellers and stray “electrical pollution” ruins their health and sends their property values plummeting.
While the Ontario government has the sole power to declare where renewable energy projects will go thanks to the Green Energy Act, town hall can fight back on behalf of residents.
Although the municipality cannot stop the projects, it can do other things such as slow down the approval process or refuse altogether to issue building permits, said John Laforet, president of Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of 57 smaller lobby groups across the province, including the newly-formed Haldimand Wind Concerns.
“Fight these guys off ,” Laforet said from the front of the hall. “Do not let them get a foothold here.”
The Toronto resident suggested residents use their power at the ballot box during the fall provincial election and noted the Conservatives have said they will issue a moratorium on building industrial turbines if they form the government.
“If you fight them like hell, you can slow them down and with a moratorium in place, you can stop them for good,” said Laforet.
At one point, Mayor Ken Hewitt emerged from the audience and took the microphone – but made no promises.
Council, he said, was still studying the matter and hadn’t made up its mind about what to do.
“We’re newly elected. We want to educate ourselves,” Hewitt said.
“We have a duty to the whole county as a whole… We will do what is right for all of you.”
In an interview before the meeting, Peter Grosvenor, president of Haldimand Wind Concerns, said the group’s first meeting last month produced 84 memberships.
He said their goal is to stop the turbines from going up.
“There’s nothing for Haldimand,” said Grosvenor. “There’s no jobs.”
Dave Colling of Ripley, Ont., near Kincardine, told the crowd how he signed a lease a few years ago to host a wind turbine on his rural property, only to abandon the arrangement later after his neighbours complained to him they were being sickened from it.
“I would never do it again,” he said. “It was one of the biggest mistakes I ever made.”
Colling, who has some training as an electrical engineer, described how he measured electrical pollution at affected farms and saw how the turbines had turned homes into “microwaves.”
Previously healthy people, he said, were now on blood pressure medicine, couldn’t sleep, and suffered from headaches. He said he helped get four families into hotels and got the company that owned the wind turbines to pay for it.
In one case, he visited a family on a horse farm near Shelburne, north of Toronto. They were far from the turbines in that area but right across the road from a substation.
The couple’s daughter was “vomiting up to eight times a day,” Colling said, and one time had to drive her away in the middle of the night she was so sick.
Colling also warned about the wording of leases farmers who host turbines sign with companies. The government’s mandatory 550-metre setback doesn’t apply to them, he said, while another clause asks them to “waive” taking any action against the company for the “nuisance” the turbines may cause them.
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