The sound of a wind turbine against a background of static rumbled on repeat through the Davidson Centre on Tuesday, May 31 during a town hall meeting on wind turbines.
“Annoying, isn’t it?” said one organizer to disgruntled audience members as she was setting up for the show.
The “High Cost of Wind” meeting welcomed several hundred concerned residents to hear four professional speakers on several turbine related issues.
President of Wind Concerns Ontario, John Laforet, spoke to residents as part of the Truth About Turbines tour, which is travelling across the province. He was joined by Dr. Scott Petrie, Tom Adams and Mike McMurray.
“The few people in this community who might profit from wind turbines can’t be allowed to control the lives of the many, that’s wrong,” said Laforet to the crowd.
His message to the audience was WCO is going to do everything it can to stop those who profit from hurting the community.
He told residents a story about an area in Northern Ontario which is facing signifi cant environmental impact due to the erection of wind turbines.
“The damage in the north is unconscionable. Over 130 acres of land containing sugar maple trees is being clear cut for turbine development, land which has been environmentally protected for 90 years,” he said.
He also mentioned Ostrander Point where the government has received $230,000 to allow the development of turbines on lands which host protected and endangered species.
Many residents had questions for Laforet.
Christine Silvester and her husband Peter travelled from Meaford to attend the meeting.
“Your community supported us so we want to show our support for you,” said Silvester. She asked Laforet why only one turbine developer will show up in a municipality when there are so many companies.
“There are 420 companies in the industry in Ontario and there are no accidental overlaps,” said Laforet, agreeing it is suspicious but happens because the industry is very centralized.
Laforet encouraged the audience to engage in the upcoming fall election.
Many local residents showed concern about their property values and Mike McMurray, a realtor for the Grey Highlands area, travelled to Kincardine to discuss the impacts turbine developments have been having on the real estate market.
“What I have seen more than a noticeable drop in sale prices is a noticeable drop in buyers. People aren’t paying less they just aren’t paying at all. Buyers are walking away from properties,” said McMurray.
He told the audience he has seen significant increases in the period of time homes remain on the market before, or if, they sell.
“A great many homes in this area are purchased by people moving from the city, looking for their slice of peace and quiet, escape, nature and recreation,” he added. “People don’t want to see a sea of blinking red lights against their night sky.”
More than 50% of the audience raised their hand when McMurray asked if they moved to this area because of the natural beauty.
“People looking to buy in this area are facing uncertainty because of the threat of turbine developments, uncertainty always affects the real estate market,” he added.
Many residents had questions for McMurray about having their property values reassessed by MPAC.
“My home has been on the market since 2009 and not only have we received no offers, not one person has come to look at our property, When I filled out the Canadian census I indicated the value of my property was $0,” said one resident. She asked McMurray what her options were.
The news from McMurray wasn’t too good.
“MPAC has done very little to nothing about reassessing properties affected by turbines.”
However, if enough people file with MPAC eventually they will have to do something if they want to maintain a realistic picture of market value, he added.
When Dr. Scott Petrie stood up to speak he started telling a story people might not have heard before, one about the health of waterfowl.
He spent the evening teaching attendees about the impacts turbine placement has on waterfowl populations in the Lower Great Lakes.
“We’ve lost over 90% of our wetlands in the lower great lakes region, so we have an international obligation to protect them,” he said.
Petrie became involved in the issue with wind turbines when it became obvious to him the province was going to do nothing to protect waterfowl.
“The Ministry of Natural Resources created a document called Bird and Bird Habitat Guidelines for Wind Turbine Projects and they are terrible guidelines which fail to protect the environment. Instead they facilitate the construction of turbines,” he said.
“There are 29 species of waterfowl which either live in the lower great lakes or stop here for extended periods while on migratory routes from the Atlantic to Alaska, this area is very important,” he added.
Approximately 7 million birds, including geese, dabbling duck, swans, diving ducks and sea ducks, arrive in the area in the spring, and 12.8 million pass through the lower great lakes in the fall.
Petrie said data demonstrates waterfowl will avoid wind turbines. The birds will abandon fields used for hundreds of years for feeding because of a single turbine.
“I have huge concerns about offshore wind projects. Biologists in Denmark have documented in peer-reviewed journals that migrating birds will fly around an off-shore development instead of crossing over it,” he told the audience.
Although there is a moratorium in Ontario on off-shore wind now that could change after the fall election. Petrie held up a map showing how the current proposed off-shore turbine developments would act as a barrier to birds attempting to use the Lower Great Lakes area to fatten up and breed during their long migrations.
Residents told Petrie about their experiences with waterfowl in the wake of turbine developments.
“We planted 6,000 trees over 33 years on our property and saw a steady and great increase in wildlife during that time. We are now surrounded by over 100 turbines and the birds are gone. There are no more ducks swimming in the little puddles on the fields anymore,” said Norma Schmidt.
“My husband used to see fields covered in swans near our house, but the swans have been disappearing for years now,” said Jutta Splettstoesser, who has no turbines around her property.
Petrie told the audience although his research will have an impact on turbine development locations, it will be many years before it is published in a peer-reviewed journal and turbine companies won’t acknowledge it until then.
“This is really a rural problem,” he told the audience, “People in the cities don’t know because it doesn’t affect them. You don’t know what you don’t know.”
So what is the solution? That was the question Pastor Robert Clifford was left pondering as he left the meeting on Tuesday evening.
Speakers didn’t really offer a clear solution but they did diligently explore several significant issues.
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