“Houses in South Neebing – going cheap,” Anna Marchese said Monday evening while leaving city hall moments after Thunder Bay council approved an agreement with Horizon Wind to avoid a $126-million lawsuit.
Marchese was one of several people who confronted councillors after the meeting to express their displeasure with the decision and the way they feel they have been treated by the city.
The decision allows Horizon to put two of four wind turbines on the edge of the Nor’Wester Mountain escarpment. The other two must be moved back from the edge.
The city was slapped with the suit after council voted to have all four turbines moved back.
After Monday’s meeting, Nor’Wester Mountain escarpment protection committee co-chairman Mike Payne said he believes the city looked at who had a better chance of winning a lawsuit: Horizon Wind or local citizens.
The problem, he said, is “the city hired a law firm that represents wind developers and a consultant that works for wind developers. They have pro wind people giving them the legal opinion of what they should do,” Payne said.
Only four councillors voted against the settlement on Monday, including Mayor Keith Hobbs, who called the escarpment one of the wonders of the world.
“You’re going to blast the crap out of that mountain range and we’re getting nothing out of it,” Hobbs said.
“The costs to upgrade the grid will outweigh any profits we’ll get from it. This is not the kind of city I want to live in,” he said to applause from others who spoke against the project Monday.
John Laforet, president of Wind Concerns Ontario, addressed the eight councillors who were in the room when he spoke.
Laforet, of Toronto, said the city is proposing a one-sided agreement that benefits Horizon more than Thunder Bay.
He said the city might be able to get out of the agreement, citing a 2000 Supreme Court decision that Victoria, B.C.’s council wasn’t bound by the previous council’s decisions.
“When your solicitor starts talking about future phases – if those are going past 2014, that is a direct violation of what is already a Supreme Court precedent.
“You’re trying to get out of one lawsuit and you’re setting yourself up for another one,” Laforet said, adding, along with Hobbs, that council should take more time to make a decision.
“We have had many hours of meetings and we’ve met with the public,’’ said Coun. Rebecca Johnson.
“We’re now at the point of asking the same questions over and over again.
“At some point we owe Horizon and this community an answer,’’ said Johnson.
Coun. Andrew Foulds agreed.
He said if the city had to pay out even $50 million, that’s the amount spent on building roads over five years.
“I think administration has worked very hard in trying to bring us a deal in the face of the $126-million lawsuit,’’ said Foulds.
“If we stood and fought we could be liable for even half of that, which means we don’t build roads for five years. That’s not the kind of risk I want to take on as a municipality,” he said.
Payne said the Nor’Wester protection committee members plan to speak with their lawyers about possible legal action against the City of Thunder Bay.
He said he’s hoping that Horizon can’t begin the project until after the October provincial election, and that the Progressive Conservatives, who have said say they will put a moratorium on wind projects that haven’t started, form the government.
“Residents in South Neebing will vote PC because they want this project to stop,” Payne said.
The residents also plan to fight the province.
“We’re geared up to fight the renewable energy approval,’’ said Payne. “We found well over 200 errors, emissions and inconsistencies in (Horizon’s submissions to the province).”
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