The controversy between Prince Edward County landowners proposing to house industrial wind turbines on their property and their neighbours has now propelled into court.
A $14 million lawsuit was filed by 20 plaintiffs against more than 20 landowners and wind proponent WPD Canada last week for contracts to construct turbines on private property in South Marysburgh.
The group claimed the 29-turbine development – the White Pines Project – will have a negative impact on their property values.
The manager of communications for WPD, Kevin Surette, said that is not the case and WPD will provide studies showing turbines won’t affect real estate values.
“We intend to defend ourselves and an independent judge will determine whether or not industrial wind developments will have a negative impact on property values,” said Surette. “People have the capacity to do what they feel is right and put forward a statement of claim. A judge will make the ultimate decision. We have posted information on our website with studies that have looked at situations in the past where wind farms are present and they don’t have negative impacts on property values.”
Surette said WPD is working with 30 landowners but not all of them have been named in the lawsuit.
“We have assumed all of the risks associated with the project to assure landowners we’d be there for them by providing them with the funds to obtain their own legal council,” said Surette.
A Royal Road resident who is planning to build a turbine on their property said they were instructed not to speak with the media.
“I can sympathize with both sides,” said South Bay resident Richard Copple. Copple is the president of Point-to-Point PEC, a group working to turn Ostrander Point (another wind proposal site by Gilead Power) into a national park.
“I feel that landowners are in an uncomfortable position. These contracts were never disclosed to their neighbours. It’s upsetting for both sides and now there is an industrial development going up. It’s sad to see this happening to neighbours. A lot of people don’t want to live near a turbine. They should have mentioned it to their neighbours and given them a chance to get out.”
Chris Kent is another South Bay resident who lives one kilometre from where Gilead Power is proposing to develop a nine-turbine wind farm.
“Realtors can’t sell homes in this area so there is no way for them to do an assessment on our property,” said Kent. “There are three homes for sale on my road right now. One has been for sale for over a year and another for at least six or seven months. Until this is resolved we are like prisoners having this thing (wind farm) hanging over you.”
Copple said he would like to see one of the contracts.
“All of this secrecy going on,” said Copple. “They signed those contracts without anyone knowing it and now we’re hearing turbines are going up. We don’t know what the deal is.”
Surette said WPD is planning its second public open house for Aug. 30 and then will send off the application to the Ministry of Environment. The MOE will look at the proposal to determine whether or not the information is correct. If the project gets the go ahead it will then be posted on ministry’s Environmental Bill of Rights for 30 days so the public can comment on it.
“By the time they go through the process, if it’s approved, we could start building next spring or summer,” said Surette.