“The fact is there is serious risk for property owners. Anybody who hasn’t signed a lease shouldn’t sign because there is already a lawsuit. You cannot damage people and ruin their way of life, jeopardize their health and affect their property values without facing the consequences. We’re going to see that. There’s that one near Stayner and we’re going to see more,” said [Realtor Mike] McMurray.
The proponents of a wind farm near Priceville told West Grey council this week that they have expanded the area for the project, so a public consultation process has to start again.
Opponents of the proposal picketed West Grey’s administration building Tuesday before representatives of NextEra Energy updated council about the project. About 70 of them packed the council chambers.
Pat Becker of Genivar engineering explained that a larger area is needed during the initial stage of selecting the final sites because of Green Energy Act regulation that constrains the developer in the selection process.
She said to date there are about 25 properties where lease agreements have been signed. From those 10-14 wind turbine sites will be chosen.
The East Durham proposal calls for a 23-megawatt project that could have either 14 turbines rated at 1.6 megawatts each or 10 turbines at 2.3 megawatts each depending on the technology chosen for the project.
Each tower will be 80 metres from the ground to the hub in the centre of the turbine blades.
The company is to start construction on the turbines in September of 2013 and have them operational by January of the following year.
The area for the project now extends north to Concession 6 in the former Glenelg Township north of County Rd. 4, south to Stone Hill Rd., on the east to the Glenelg-Artemisia town line and west to the Baseline Rd.
The company was awarded a contract on July 4 under the province’s Feed In Tariff program to sell power. That provided the impetus needed to move ahead with the project, which predates the Green Energy Act.
Company spokesperson Josie Hernandez said she expects the first public information meeting in the latest round of consultations to take place sometime in the fall. In the meantime biological and archeological fieldwork is being carried out in an effort to determine where the turbines will be built.
Coun. Carol Lawrence urged company representatives to hold a public meeting where residents could sit down to a presentation by experts and ask questions, rather than the public information format that the company prefers where people speak one-on-one to company officials while viewing pictures and charts on displays around a hall.
Coun. Mark Rapke said the area included now is too large and could potentially affect too many residents.
Realtor Mike McMurray discounted a claim by Hernandez that over the long term housing values don’t fall. He said he’s aware of prospective buyers in the Shelburne area who refuse to consider relocating near the large wind farms there.
He also mentioned a lawsuit that a Stayner-area property owner brought against a wind developer claiming loss of property value because of a turbine located on a neighbouring property. The neighbour with the wind turbine has been included in the lawsuit, McMurray said.
“The fact is there is serious risk for property owners. Anybody who hasn’t signed a lease shouldn’t sign because there is already a lawsuit. You cannot damage people and ruin their way of life, jeopardize their health and affect their property values without facing the consequences. We’re going to see that. There’s that one near Stayner and we’re going to see more,” said McMurray.
“In most cases you have to wait until the turbines are up and running before you can start the lawsuit but there are all kinds of people behind it and this is inevitable. I pity the people who signed contracts because they are the ones who will take the brunt of this,” added.
Resident Richard O’Brien complained that company officials have not addressed concerns he raised more than two and half years ago after a public meeting in Durham.
Becker explained that the project, which has been in the planning stages since 2006, fell into a lull while awaiting approval of the FIT contract last summer.
“Things were, shall I say, kind of lying low,” Becker explained.
Company spokesperson Derek Dudek assured Coun. Bev Cutting that NextEra would be responsible for decommissioning wind turbines at the end of their life in 20 years. He also assured her that the company will provide fire and rescue capabilities for its turbines. He acknowledged that local volunteer fire departments don’t have the capabilities for providing such a service or keeping volunteers trained.
Mayor Kevin Eccles said he understood how farmers and landowners might be tempted to lease their properties when faced with the promise of receiving a large sum of money annually year for 20 years.
“But that is pitting landowner against landowner and I don’t think that you are being socially responsible,” said the mayor.
The long-term economic impacts of the project following construction are expected to be modest with an annual taxation of about $51,000 and some improvements to the local roads, bridges and culverts during the construction phase.
Dudek said in recognition of the small amount of property taxes, the company is proposing to donate $3,500 per megawatt each year over the expected 20-year life of the project.
The 23 megawatt project would generate an additional $8,000 a year to be used in the municipality for recreational and community projects at the choice of council.
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