An information meeting on a proposed wind energy project east of Durham elicited some angry responses to the plan by NextEra Energy to construct as many as 17 turbines northwest of Priceville in the former Glenelg Township.
Leonard van Den Bosch only found out at Wednesday’s meeting that three turbines will be visible from his property.
“I bought this property 20 years ago. This property is everything I have. It’s my retirement money. And now this property is probably going to drop (in value) by more than 50%. But this company, NextEra, say their studies show there are no negative impact on property values … who is going to give me the property values that I lost?” said van Den Bosch, whose property is located one sideroad north of Priceville on the North Durham Side Road.
“They are ruining this rural community by putting up these things that nobody wants. How come they don’t put them out in Lake Ontario? It’s the people of Toronto that want the turbines … it’s because there are Liberal ridings in Toronto and McGuinty will cancel anything to keep those Liberal ridings in Toronto,” said an angry van Den Bosch.
NextEra spokesperson Josie Hernandez says it has not been the company’s experience that turbines lower property values.
“It’s been our experience for any development there is a phase where people are afraid of what may be coming in, but then once (the turbines) are erected – and we see this time and time again – that fear goes away.”
Realtor Mike McMurray says one of the major Canadian banks with a branch in the Melancthon Township area has studied the impact of a wind turbine contract registered on a property and has decided not to allow lines of credit on houses situated near wind farms.
He said he also knows of at least two insurance companies that are refusing to insure properties with industrial wind turbines.
“It increases the risk to the property owner. The property owner loses some control of who comes on the property,” he said. NextEra representative Thomas Bird said with the thousands of landowners the company has dealings across North America he’s never heard of an insurance company refusing to insure a property owner.
McMurray said one of the five major Canadian banks is posed to announce it will no longer mortgage properties with wind turbines.
“The reason being is that it will reduce the marketability of the property, reduce the value of the property. If it goes to power of sale, now they’ve got a cloud on the title and all kinds of other hassles. Once that one bank goes public, the rest of them will all wake up and do the same thing,” he added.
West Grey resident Dick O’Brien said he would like to see the mayor and council stand up to NextEra like other communities have done.
“If the local council didn’t support exact dictates of the Liberal government we’d be in much better shape in West Grey,” O’Brien said.
Coun. Carol Lawrence said the majority of West Grey residents don’t want wind turbines in the community. She says NextEra is not listening to the residents or council, which asked that Wednesday’s meeting be a public meeting forum with presentations by company officials and question and answer period.
“I don’t think there is one person here except with NextEra that is in favour of this format. They are not listening … it’s really the provincial government we should be blaming. But I think it’s a darn shame,” said Lawrence.
Hernandez said there is too much information for a single person to represent all aspects of the project at a public meeting.
“People may come in and have a question just about the birds. It gives every person a chance to have those questions answered by the people that are involved in the studies,” she said.
The area of the proposed wind energy farm is bound by the 6th Concession on the north, Baseline Road to the west, the Artemesia/Glenelg town line to the east and the Glenelg/Southgate town line.
Coun. Rob Thompson said he and other councillors told NextEra representatives at a recent presentation that wind energy developers are not welcome to West Grey.
“NextEra go away. All of you wind energy people go away. We don’t want you,” he said.
Siggi Blum, who lives one concession away from the nearest turbine, says he favours wind energy.
“If we don’t go to alternative sources of electricity where is the electricity going to come from if we shut down the coal fired plants and if we want to reduce nuclear power. It’s got to come from somewhere. It’s a step in that direction.” he said.
Blum said it wouldn’t bother him if he could see the turbines. He thinks the controversy over wind turbines will blow over in a few years and they will become part of the landscape, just like hydro electric transmission towers.
His wife Sheila Stockton agrees with the need for alternative sources of energy but she’s not sure she would want an 18-storey structure looming over her backyard.
She supports setbacks from residences larger than the current 550 metres allowed under the Green Energy Act.
“We should also be considering solar power and geothermal and everything else we can think of,” Stockton said.
Hernandez expects all approvals to be in place by this time next year so construction on the turbines near Durham can begin in late 2013.