A Chesterville woman is collecting opposition to wind energy in the hopes of heading off projects before they begin.
Theresa Bergeron said there’s two companies that have quietly approached landowners to secure sites for turbines, so she gathered 450 signatures from residents who are against the idea.
She’s taking the cause to North Dundas council on Tuesday, hoping they’ll agree to prohibit wind energy projects in the entire municipality.
“I’m hoping council is going to pass a motion to declare North Dundas an industrial wind turbine-free zone,” she said. “That’s what I want.”
She’ll have support from Mayor Eric Duncan at least, but he said even if they do write a bylaw to that effect, it can be overruled by the province.
“In my opinion, as an individual council member, I prefer not to see wind turbines in the municipality,” he said.
But Duncan said the township is virtually powerless to stop development if the Ontario government gives its approval.
“The message we’re trying to get across is, the Green Energy Act has taken away power from the municipalities to make a decision,” he said. “…Even if we put in a moratorium, even if we say no, the whole point of the Green Energy Act is to trump any municipalities’ say. We’re at the mercy of the province on this.”
Duncan said he doesn’t expect council to make a decision on turbine projects this week, as they also want to give the pro-wind side a chance to make their case.
Invenergy is one of the companies that has shown interest in a North Dundas site, but a spokesperson said they are still “in an early stage of development.”
Shelley Moorhead said in an email that they have land agreements in the region but don’t have a contract with the Ontario Power Authority yet, and therefore don’t have project timelines or other details.
Duncan said the township hasn’t been approached by either company yet.
Bergeron said she wants to beat them to council and make her argument before they ask for support.
“I’m going to council first and say we don’t want them. If they come here, (council should) make it clear we don’t approve.”
She will also push the township to write to the Ontario government, urging them to back any decision council makes. With hundreds of supporters already on her side, Bergeron also sent 5,000 flyers across North Dundas last week laying out reasons she opposes wind energy developments.
“It caues all kinds of disruptions,” she said. “There’s arguments and frictions between neighbours and family members. It’s just a mess. We don’t need that. It’s a quiet community and we’ve always gotten along.”
Duncan agreed. He said watching a wind energy project progress in South Dundas showed how it can divide neighbourhoods.
But strife isn’t the only reason Bergeron wants to keep turbines out. “It devalues neighbouring properities. People will have trouble selling their homes.” She also has concerns about health risks and environment impacts, especially on an aquifer – which is just 30 feet underground – that feeds Winchester and Chesterville. “It’s just too risky.”