Negligence, nuisance, trespass, decreased property values and aggravated and mental distress will take centre stage in a $17 million lawsuit between neighbours in Prince Edward County as 27 landowners filed a civil suit against 47 of their neighbours and wind developer WPD Canada.
The defendants named in a statement of claim have signed contracts with WPD to house wind turbines on their property as part of the White Pines Project.
Eric Gillespie, an environmental lawyer from Toronto, is representing the 27 landowners in the suit. Gillespie represented Ian Hanna of Prince Edward County when Hanna challenged the province on human health impacts of turbine setbacks under the Green Energy Act.
“We are still in the process of having everyone served,” said Gillespie. “We respect the fact that people will want the opportunity to read through the paper work and respond to the claim. We will be able to comment once the legal process is able to move forward.”
Communications manager for WPD said the company intends to defend itself and will ensure all legal costs for the contract holders are covered.
South Marysburgh councillor Barbara Proctor said she is disturbed by the news of the lawsuit and it takes polarization to a whole other level.
“I don’t think it’s a question whether or not you are for or against wind,” said Proctor. “Is it a good idea to take it to this level?”
Proctor said she knows some of the people who were served a statement of claim this week.
“Some of the people being served are in their 90s,” said Proctor. “Or they’ve just received their RRSPs and they’re trying to go about their daily activities. Now they have this lawsuit hanging over their head. I’m disturbed about this tactic.”
Proctor said she understands where the people who filed the suit are coming from because they have to stop the turbines being built. But she said “this issue has lost the human element. We are not looking at people we are looking at an issue. I wish they could work together on this somehow. I don’t think the two sides have come together to talk it out and it’s been a total fight and it’s now become a sport to win at any cost.”
Mayor Peter Mertens agreed with Proctor that turbines in the County have divided the community but said he’s staying out of the legal matter.
“I don’t want to put my oar in the water,” said Mertens. “Feelings are running pretty high. A lot of people don’t understand the gravity or depth of concern. When you ignore people you do it at your own risk.”
Proctor said she doesn’t believe those who are planning to house the turbines are doing it out of greed.
“We’ve grown to learn more and more about wind energy,” said Proctor. “When these folks leased their land it wasn’t for greed purposes. I believe that they believe wind is the way to go. It’s a mess now. No one can back down now.”
Proctor said she thinks turbines could be affecting property values.
“No one wants to live here,” said Proctor. “I don’t know if it’s because of the conflict.”
She said it would be interesting to get an appraisal and see what the market value in the County is.
Chestnut Park real estate representative, Lori Slik said the talk of turbines isn’t affecting the value of real estate in Prince Edward County.
“You can’t tell the affect it will have until there is something for sale,” said Slik, who has been a sales representative for five years. “There isn’t a lot for sale out there (in Milford). I sold a property on the Mill Pond two years ago and got more than I expected. Turbines don’t come up a lot and I don’t get a lot of negative feedback when they do.”
Slik said she’s come across a handful of potential buyers who have brought up the topic of turbines but it’s not a main conversation.
A court date hasn’t been confirmed yet and Gillespie said it could take some time to set.