September 8, 2012

Withering wind: Pro and anti-industrial wind forces face off in Picton

The Times | 7 September 2012

As protests go, it remained a fairly restrained affair. There were a few noisy confrontations but little disruption of the wind energy developer’s public meeting. The heavy security presence and a smattering of plain-clothes police officers weren’t called upon to do more than observe.

The ingredients were all there—a procession of opponents to wind turbines parading down Main Street toward the high school that was serving as host to the developer’s meeting. Outside, a small gaggle of wind energy supporters stood defiantly as the crowd of anti-wind protesters amassed at the school’s doors.

Occasionally, one or two of the pro-wind folks would wade through the crowd shouting “Go back to Toronto.” For some this is what the debate about wind energy has devolved into—a battle between “true” County residents and the newcomers. Unable or unwilling to engage the debate on its merits, some have chosen to define the clash by their County pedigree.

On the other side, Eric Schenkman of Maypul Layn worked hard to whip up the enthusiasm of the 100 or so protesters gathered on the school’s grounds. Charlie Vincent—festooned as Town Crier—too worked the crowd.

But fear is gripping this group. Not of the handful of pro-wind folks eager to cash in on industrialization of their land, but rather, fear that no one is listening to them. There is growing sense that the provincial government and these developers are intent on populating South Marysburgh with nearly 50-storey turbines, with or without their approval.

For Jackie Charles, wind turbines have ruined her retirement dreams. Jackie and her husband bought a plot of land on County Road 24 near Schoolhouse Road few years ago. They purchased building plans and navigated the permitting process to erect their retirement home in this quiet rural area of Prince Edward County.

But just as they were informed the permits were ready to be picked up, Jackie learned that wind developers wpd were planning on erecting one of 29 massive industrial turbines about a mile away from her retirement plot.

“Nobody told us about this when we bought the land,” said Charles.

Now her retirement dream is on hold. She won’t build now. She is skeptical anyone will buy the property with the threat of industrial wind turbines rising out of the horizon overhanging the property. “I may not live to see this home built,” said Charles with resignation.

Hedy Campbell of Picton believes the province ought to be pursuing alternative energy sources but she believes wind energy isn’t one of them. She fears the impact these bussized machines will have on the environment— not just the birds, but the animals that make South Marysburgh their home. She worries too that the County’s tourism economy will suffer and that the County’s natural beauty will be compromised to benefit a few developers.

Meanwhile the developers politely answered questions, attentively noted objections and assiduously met the criteria of public consultation. The security firm earned a tidy sum. Most of the residents who came out to object to their rural community becoming industrialized for the financial gain of a few went home satisfied they had delivered their message—but increasingly uncertain that it will make any difference.

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