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Wind farm plan draws protest

SMITHVILLE Residents opposed to one of Ontario’s largest planned wind farms protested outside an open house staged by the company aiming to build it.

Upset the farm by the Niagara Region Wind Corp. will devalue properties, be noisy and create health problems, they milled around the front door of the Smithville Christian High School where the firm was presenting its new draft site map for 77 turbines in West Lincoln, Haldimand County and Wainfleet.

More than 100 people took part in the protest, many holding signs with such sentiments as “Gagged and abandoned under McGuinty’s Green Act” and “Stop the Wind Turbines.” Organizer Neil Switzer hopes such demonstrations create so much heat for NRWC it folds its tent and leaves. About 300 people against the project signed a petition.

Two Niagara regional police officers were on hand, but Constable Mike Daniels later said the protest was peaceful and “that there was nothing out of the ordinary.”

The West Lincoln Glanbrook Wind Action Group, which has been lobbying against the $550-million project for nearly two years, conducted what it calls the ‘Look-Up, Wake-UP’ campaign. They floated balloons to the same 572-foot height of a turbine to “alert” residents to the size and scale of the wind turbines.

“This is not about wind turbines,” said Switzer, chair of the WLGWAG, told the residents. “It’s about our community.”

Larry Moore, 65, attended the protest with his family, including his four-year-old granddaughter Lauren. He said he will have two turbines near his home, plus a service driveway right beside his property. He’s upset by the impact on the environment and also calls it a waste of money.

“We don’t need anymore electricity,” he claimed. “We’re giving it to the States now.”

NRWC has sites for 44 wind turbines in West Lincoln, 31 in Haldimand and five in Wainfleet. It is leaving three sites vacant. The project is one of five turbine projects already built, or being proposed, for the rural communities south of Hamilton.

NRWC spokesperson Randi Rahamin estimated about 500 people came to the open house and, while she admitted they heard from opponents, she said they also heard from people who “support wind energy, renewable energy and that it is the way of the future.”

She said NRWC believes it has gone out of its way to resolve opponents concerns by holding eight public meetings, meeting with municipal councils and turning up at things like fall fairs.

She noted Chatham-Kent had a study done in 2010 on turbines put up in its community in 2007 and it demonstrated that being near a turbine did not impact property values “in any material way.”

Asked if heat from WLGWAG might finally get to them, Rahamin said, “We’re committed to working with them, as best we can.”