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Kingsville farmer hamstrung by turbine; Appeals for council help

For 35 years, Henry Armstrong and his older brother have farmed 98 acres at Inman Sideroad and North Talbot Road in Kingsville.

Now a wind turbine erected on a neighbouring farm across the road has changed the face of their land forever.

“I’ve lost my rights, no consultation, no compensation,” Armstrong said, standing where soybeans are just about to push through the earth.

Back in 2010, the brothers decided to split the farm down the middle, putting each half in one of their names. They still farm it jointly but, getting on in years, they thought a severance was prudent for estate planning purposes.

“We thought we should divide it in case something happens to one of us,” Armstrong, 64, said.

They filled out the necessary severance paperwork with the town. Months later, on the eve of their application being approved, the town’s planner discovered the footings of a wind turbine going up across the road. She insisted that Armstrong, for his half of the farm that falls within 550 metres of the turbine, would have to get the property rezoned to never allow a home to be built on much of it.

The town says Armstrong or some subsequent owner could build on the property if he severed an odd-shaped lot on Inman Sideroad abutting the other Armstrong property. But Armstrong says that’s not fair since it should be up to the property owner to decide if he or she wants to build in the shadow of a turbine.

Armstrong said he reluctantly went along with the rezoning, paying the town about $1,600 for the more onerous paperwork and paying the higher legal and surveying fees that went along with it.

“I feel I was bullied into it,” Armstrong said. “I had to, otherwise I wouldn’t get the severance.”

Armstrong said town officials told him he could file a formal appeal with the Ontario Municipal Board. But no one could tell him if, in winning his appeal, his severance would be lost. “I didn’t want to take the chance.”

Instead, Armstrong has appealed to town council. He asked that the building restriction on his land be removed and that the town reimburse him the rezoning fee.

At a recent meeting, he got some sympathy.

“That’s the problem with these wind turbines,” said Deputy Mayor Tamara Stomp. “There’s no consultation…. There’s no control.”

Council instructed town administrators to study the provincial setback guidelines for wind turbines and report back.

But Armstrong worries town administrators will echo what they wrote in a report insisting on the rezoning in the first place.

Town clerk Ruth Orton-Pert last week pointed to a 2010 report by the town’s former planner that says that while there is nothing in the provincial guidelines to prevent someone from putting up a house near a turbine, the town can raise that bar.

“The proposed restriction goes beyond the current provincial standards by creating a higher municipal standard and does not inhibit the development of future renewable energy projects,” the report said.

Armstrong’s property is across the street from a turbine that is part of Brookfield Energy’s Gosfield Wind Farm. Brookfield approached him about putting a turbine on his land but Armstrong declined.

The farmer across the road struck a deal with Brookfield allowing the company to erect a turbine within 550 metres of his house. The turbine is within 550 metres of other houses on North Talbot Road as well.

The town did not insist that those other properties be rezoned, Armstrong pointed out.

The town, in its report, lays no blame with Brookfield, saying the company would have looked at the then 98-acre parcel and figured there was plenty of room on it for a house.

“The approval of the farm split created a new building envelope that wouldn’t have been taken into consideration by the developer.”

Orton-Pert said the town report on Armstrong’s quandary is still in the works.