Anna Marchese is tired of fighting.
The mother of three started volunteering with Nor’Western Mountain Escarpment Protection Committee around September 2009. She and the other members fought to ensure that their voices were heard when the City of Thunder Bay and Horizon Wind Inc. planned to build wind turbines on the Nor’Western Mountain range.
City council approved 14 of 18 of Horizon Wind’s preferred wind turbine locations in October 2010. That sparked a $126-million lawsuit from the company that alleged the city breached its contract.
City Solicitor Rosalie Evans announced on Friday a recommendation of a potential compromise with Horizon Wind. The proposal would see Horizon Wind Inc. alter some of its plans, including the removal of a controversial wind turbine location near the Loch Lomond Ski hill.
“Administration is recommending the settlement … which will see the Big Thunder Wind Farm project approved from the point of view of the city as landlord and Horizon as tenant,” Evans said Friday.
If council does approve during an April 4 meeting, Horizon will drop the lawsuit it levied against the city in October 2010. The compromise would allow Horizon to move ahead with the first phase of its Big Thunder Wind Park project.
The company says it can build eight more efficient wind turbines instead of the original 11. The eight will still produce 16.5 megawatts of generating capacity. That phase, however, is still subject to the province’s Renewable Energy Approval.
With all these new changes, Marchese said she still feels like she’s been left in the dark. A public memorandum released Friday that details the compromise states that Horizon has agreed to scrap two of the four locations the city had issues with in October.
Marchese said she couldn’t find a copy of the public memorandum on the city’s website and had to look for a copy somewhere else. She said the committee members plan to voice their concerns at city council and encouraged others to do so as well.
As of Sunday morning, 21 applicants have prepared to give a deputation on Monday, she said.
“I’m tired of doing this,” Marchese said on Sunday. “I’m frustrated, a little bit angry. I’m starting to lose faith in our council and administration. I can’t even say, for me personally, that I blame Horizon Wind because they aren’t the ones doing this. This is administration’s recommendation. We’re asking the citizens to tell councillors we’re not happy.”
The entire project has changed and there needs to be more studies on how the new turbines and its new locations will impact the community, she said. Since the recommendation was release on Friday, there was not much time for the public to give feedback before the vote.
Marchese said that’s not fair.
“The fact that the report came out on Friday for approval on Monday is ludicrous,” she said. “It doesn’t even have to be an issue about the mountain. It just isn’t fair. It isn’t a proper process when you look at the document because there are so many changes.”
Preferred locations listed by the company’s plans as no. 10 and 11 will be shelved, while controversial sites no. 8 and 9 will remain.
New no. 10 and 11 sites have been chosen, but are now farther away from their original locations. Marchese said it appeared that the further back the wind turbines go the bigger they get.
But some residents who spoke with Tbnewswatch.com said they would be glad to have the lawsuit settled.
Ray Riley, who lives in Oliver-Paipoonge, said as long as the company has agreed to the changes, the city should go ahead and settle the matter.
“I say go with it otherwise someone is going to get hurt and the city’s going to come out of it looking pretty low and negative and it’s going to cost dollars,” Riley said. “If they can settle this thing, settle it. You can’t screw around. If you cut a contract you have to live roughly by the terms or take your lumps.”
Riley said he didn’t think public input was necessary in this decision because it would just delayed the matter even more.
Maxime Trottier and his common-law partner Katie Gamache live near Port Arthur. The couple said they saw the project as a positive step for the city but still sympathised with those in the Neebing ward.
“I think it’s really good for the city,” Trottier said. “It has been a big deal with the lawsuit and stuff. I see in the news now that they’re getting close to a settlement. I’m pretty excited that it is coming to an end.”
While Trottier agreed that releasing the recommendation on Friday didn’t leave the public a lot of time for input, the lawsuit has been going on long enough and council should just make a decision, he said.
Neebing Coun. Linda Rydholm said she could not support the recommendation because it changed too much and left too many unanswered questions. She has to do what she felt was right even if it meant the city would continue to face a lawsuit.
She added she welcomed any public input on the issue.
“The plan has vastly change since the report that was brought to us,” Rydholm said. “I believe in doing what is right and it is not right to agree to what is being brought to us Monday night.”
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