Whether they were for or against, hundreds of people turned up at Smithville District Christian High School Tuesday evening for answers about a proposed 230-megawatt wind farm.
Niagara Region Wind Corp., the proponents behind what is being called Canada’s largest wind farm, opened the doors to the community Tuesday for an informal meeting on the project. The project was announced through the Ontario Power Authority’s Feed-in-Tariff program earlier this year, an announcement that stunned the community of West Lincoln which was already trying to absorb a five-turbine wind farm proposed for Caistor Centre by IPC Energy.
“I’m angry,” said Mike Chalupa, a Wellandport resident. “Due process was not followed here, we in the township had no say on this.”
Chalupa was angry that NRWC has been working on the project for five years but only made the announcement this past March.
“They shouldn’t be able to force this on people,” said Chalupa, referring to the provincial Green Energy Act which takes decision making powers away from municipalities when it comes to green energy projects. “I live right smack dab in the middle of this. I don’t want it next to me. I don’t want to have them here at all.”
Chalupa was also frustrated by the lack of answers he was getting from representatives of NRWC at Tuesday’s meeting.
“If there’s a fire, what sort of protection do they have? If there are health effects, and people say there are, who’s going to be responsible for that? If my property de-values, who’s responsible for that?” Chalupa asked. “I’m all for green energy but not at my, or my family’s, expense.”
Deb Harrington shares a different view. She has been to the meetings held by West Lincoln Wind Action Group, a citizen’s group which formed in opposition to the wind farm projects. She has read about wind energy in the newspaper and online. She came out Tuesday to hear the other side of the story, the side she believes is true.
“I think this is great for the community,” Harrington said. “Green energy is a good thing. It’s safer than the coal that we rely on and it doesn’t have the same negative impacts on the environment. Tonight’s meeting has confirmed for me that this is a positive thing for the community.”
Harrington, a nurse, lives within the boundary of the NRWC project and does not fear having wind turbines near her home will impact her or her family’s health.
“I’ve thought about it, I’ve read about it and I don’t have a problem living near one of these things,” she concluded.
Loretta Levesque also lives within the boundary area and is nervous that turbines will be erected near her home. Levesque lives in Moulton Station, on the Haldimand side of the project boundary. Her in-laws live in Dunnville, next to a five-turbine wind farm in Dunnville so she knows how the giant, energy-producing towers impact the lives of nearby residents.
“I moved out here because the property was beautiful. I have natural bush, ponds and a river nearby, it’s absolutely beautiful,” said Levesque. “I have thousands of migrating birds fly over my home in the spring and fall. I didn’t move out to the country to look at wind turbines.”
Levesque’s biggest worry is how having turbines near her home will impact her property value. She spoke with a realtor in Dunnville earlier in the week who informed her that three homes near the Dunnville turbines are virtually unsalable.
“Green energy and wind energy are good ideas, this is just the wrong place for them,” she said. “I don’t understand why they don’t put them up north, on Crown Land, where it doesn’t impact anyone. It’s a good idea but the wrong place.”
Lynn Stadelmier isn’t for or against wind turbines, she just doesn’t want to live near one. Stadelmier is considering purchasing a property in Pelham, but when she heard the NRWC project will impact on that community, she became hesitant.
“I’m here because I intend to buy property in Pelham and I want to make sure that property is not within the project boundary,” she said. “If it was, I wouldn’t buy it.”
For Chris Brown, the turbines will do two things – protect farm land and generate clean energy. The West Lincoln farmer said turbines will prevent residential development on farm land in his community, something that needs to be done.
“It’s preserving farm land,” he said. “And besides, I’d rather live next to a wind turbine than a nuclear power plant.”
Tuesday’s meeting was not part of the NRWC renewable energy approvals process. A formal meeting will take place in September.
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