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Turbine firm still looking for a venue; Thames Valley District school board balks at holding meeting

A wind-turbine meeting for the Strathroy area is once again homeless – for the fourth time – after the Thames Valley District school board balked at being host to the politically charged gathering.

NextEra Energy Canada had booked Adelaide-W.G. MacDonald school for an open house for Aug. 13, to discuss its plans for a 38-turbine installation nearby.

But the Thames Valley board this week nixed the contract, saying “(it) was not our intention” to be drawn into the political debate. “We’re frustrated, I think disappointed more than anything else, because we know that there are people out there that want to have dialogue with us, that want to give us feedback,” NextEra spokesperson Steven Stengel said. “There have been a number of roadblocks in front of us in trying to get this meeting scheduled.”

Another session will be scheduled somewhere else, he said.

That means the planned open house is not only homeless, but also dateless.

It’s the latest in what’s becoming a saga of company attempts to have a public open house as required by the provincial Environment Ministry.

NextEra had originally told residents the meeting would take place at the same school on July 12, before it discovered the school was closed and a custodian wouldn’t be available.

It regrouped to the Adelaide-Metcalfe municipal office, but that was deemed too small for the crowd expected to attend.

It then booked Amy’s Place Restaurant, but its owner cancelled in the face of community resistance.

After letters went out to residents that the same school was booked for Aug. 13, opponents sent e-mails of complaint to the Thames Valley board.

The board cited in its cancellation a clause that says the board had the right to “revoke or cancel a permit at any time . . . with or without cause.”

It refunded NextEra’s rental fee of $1,780.46.

“The point here is that some members of the community perceived that we were taking sides – which was not our intention,” board spokesperson Richard Hoffman said.

Stengel said the cancellation came as a surprise, “given that it’s our understanding that venue had hosted pro-wind events, as well as anti-wind events, in the past.”

Esther Wrightman, who was among those who sent e-mails calling for the board to cancel the booking, was pleased her children’s school won’t be host site to a meeting for a project she opposes, by a company she is battling. “They aren’t listening, they don’t care and it doesn’t matter anymore,” she said.

Several hundred turbines are planed for the region and opponents say they bring with them a host of health and environmental problems and property devaluation.

Advocates say they are both a renewable energy source and a stimulus to the economy.