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Landowners gain new strategy in turbine, highway fights

Landowners against wind turbines and the expansion of Hwy 7/8 through Shakespeare gained ammunition June 13 at an information meeting of the Huron Perth Landowners Association.

Guest speaker Elizabeth Marshall of the Ontario Landowners Association spoke to about 100 people in Mitchell’s Crystal Palace about Crown Land Patent Grants, original contracts between settlers and the Crown. The OLA believes these contracts will stand up in court to more recent bylaws and legislation.

“You have rights. You just don’t know about it,” Marshall told the audience, explaining that a patent grant defines what a property owner owns and what parts of the property, if any, the government has a right to. Each new owner of a property becomes an “assign” and still has the rights outlined in their patent grant.

Reeling off dates, sections of government acts and court decisions, Marshall built her case that landowners have more rights when facing government officials than they realize, including the rights embedded in the crown patent grant.

“All of these pieces of legislation, they’re nothing,” she said, distinguishing between legislation and a court upholding rights.

She was also critical of local conservation authorities, MPAC and recent environmental legislation.

“The Green Energy Act is the most unconstitutional thing that’s going” she said to raucous applause; members of West and East Perth Against Turbines (WEPAT), as well as Huron East Against Turbines (HEAT) and Central Huron Against Turbines (CHAT) were in the audience.

Asked by WEPAT’s Tom Melady about legal options for landowners opposed to wind turbines on neighbouring properties, Marshall suggested filing torts. She said torts of trespassing and nuisance could be options.

“You were there first,” she told Melady.

“It could be a strategy,” Melady said after the meeting, adding that although each individual would have to pursue cases on their own, WEPAT could publicize the information.

For those opposed to the Highway 7/8 expansion through Shakespeare, the possible defenses of a patent grant against the Ministry of Transportation were obvious.

“I think if everybody gets these patents I think you can do something,” said Glen Herlick, who farms between Stratford and Shakespeare. “It would only take a few to stop it and we’re sure going to do it.”

Marshall briefly explained the process of obtaining the patent grant, including getting a clear title, something she said most people do not have since lawyers will only do a 40-year search on a title. Information packets at the meeting included a pre-printed application to the Ministry of Natural Resources that the OLA has devised.

Marshall told the audience to be patient. Although it took her only 10 days to receive her patent grant, the current wait is about eight months, due to the growing number of people trying to obtain theirs.

OLA interim president Tom Black encouraged audience members to join the fledgling Huron Perth Landowners Association. And although Black said the OLA has changed its radical reputation from the days of tractor protests, the June 13 meeting wasn’t without tension.

At the end of her Q & A period, Marshall got into a brief shouting match with Logan farmer Tim Nicholson over the county’s tree bylaw.

“You can’t tell me what to do on my land,” she said to applause after Nicholson suggested that Logan could be bare of trees without the bylaw.

“It’s a social order that people have imposed upon themselves,” Nicholson said about the county during a later interview.

HPLA organizer Cindy Moyer, of Monkton, said that the June 13 meeting served only as an information meeting so that local landowners could see what the HPLA was about.

An executive for the HPLA won’t be filled until the group’s next meeting on Sept. 15. Moyer said she expected the September meeting would also be in Mitchell, but didn’t have a set location yet.

In the interim, Moyer and Staffa farmers Barry and Karen Mahon will serve as a temporary executive.