Mike Payne is hoping a show of force will convince city councillors on the fence to change their minds about a proposed wind turbine farm that has divided the city.
About 150 protestors massed in front of city hall on Monday night, one last chance to let elected officials see their anger at the council’s decision last week to accept a deal with Horizon Wind Inc. to move four of eight planned turbines and avoid a $126-million lawsuit.
Thunder Bay simply can’t afford to have the wind farm go ahead, Payne said.
“Property values are going to plummet in that area, anywhere between 15 and 43 per cent. We’re looking at a $60-million loss of property taxes in that area over the course of this contract that the rest of Thunder Bay is going to have to pick up the cost on,” said Payne, the spokesman for the Nor’Wester Mountain Escarpment Protection Committee.
“The city has opened itself up to civil suits and maybe libel suits, because they’ve known about this project since 2007, yet the citizens didn’t find out until 2009.”
According to Payne, realty laws call for full disclosure when a project of this magnitude is built, meaning many who bought houses during the time frame means had no clue the wind farm was on the horizon.
“For two-and-a-half years, people who bought houses there were never told,” he said.
Payne remained hopeful on Monday he’d be able to sway the opinion of at least a councillor or two and see the 7-5 vote overturned.
“We have to change at least one vote to stop the ratification. But I mean this is not the right location for the wind farm,” Payne said, questioning why the city would even want to do business with the likes of Horizon Wind, who sued the city at the drop of a hat.
One councillor who will not be swayed is McKellar Coun. Paul Pugh, who pledged to vote to ratify the agreement when it hits the floor Monday night.
He fully expects the vote to pass in similar fashion to last week’s decision.
“Obviously I haven’t been reading any tea leaves, but I imagine it will be pretty much the same,” he said, after making his way through the crowd of protestors milling about the steps of city hall.
“The situation we have tonight is we’re voting over a settlement on the lawsuit, which was on the relocation of four turbines. Personally I think it would be irresponsible to turn the settlement down and subject the city to further risk over four turbines.
“We’re not talking about whether there’s a wind farm. That was decided years ago. To me, I don’t see I have any choice which way to vote.”
Neebing resident Ron Lappage would like to see the whole turbine proposal disappear, but even if council does approve the deal, he hopes it comes with caveats.
“If they do vote in favour of it, I certainly hope they make a number of amendments so the city isn’t stuck with the repercussions of this for 45 years,” Lappage said.
He’s particularly concerned about the decommissioning costs, which come up far short of what the city will be forced to pay when the turbines reach the end of their lifespan.
Twenty-thousand dollars per turbine, payable in 16 years, is not nearly enough, he said.
“Some people say these turbines are going to be closer to a million dollars each to dismantle, and the city is going to be stuck with those bills.”
Couns. Linda Rydholm, Aldo Ruberto, Joe Virdiramo, Ken Boschcoff and Mayor Keith Hobbs voted against the deal last Monday.
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