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Wind turbine lawsuit in the works

Port Ryerse residents are organizing themselves to test a new legal question related to the development of wind farms.

Eight property owners have lent their names to a lawsuit seeking damages for property devaluation arising from the UDI Renewables proposal in the hamlet west of Port Dover.

The residents – members of Norfolk Wind Concerns – are preparing the lawsuit with the help of Toronto environmental lawyer Eric Gillespie.

The lawsuit will cite UDI Renewables and the four farmers who have leased land to the green energy company for causing property values to fall in the vicinity of the project. The paperwork will be filed at a courthouse either in Toronto or Norfolk within two weeks.

Heather Walters of Port Ryerse, spokesperson for Norfolk Wind Concerns, said everyone in the hamlet knows what’s coming. NWC circulated a letter in the community several weeks ago seeking interest in a lawsuit related to depreciated property values. Eight property owners are onside while others are considering whether to join.

“We’re not doing this secretly,” Walters said. “We didn’t ask for this fight. People in this village are prepared to stand up for their rights. We hope this makes farmers reconsider these things; at least reconsider until they speak to their neighbours about them.”

The action follows in the footsteps of a lawsuit that was launched several months ago in the Collingwood area. It too is based on the allegation that wind turbines lower surrounding property values.

Walters says the question is ready to go to court because real estate data in 85 communities across Ontario has accumulated which suggest wind farms consistently depress property values wherever they are situated. The information NWC has suggests the impact is between 35 and 48% to the downside.

The wind farm industry disputes the claim.

On its website, the Canadian Wind Energy Association cites an American study that found that a 240-turbine project in Illinois did depress property values at the outset. However, the value of this real estate rebounded to previous levels after the project was built.

As well, a CanWEA Property Value Study concerning the establishment of wind farms in Chatham-Kent concluded that “there is no statistical evidence to demonstrate that wind farms negatively affect rural residential market values.”

The UDI proposal in Port Ryerse consists of four turbines producing a maximum output of 10 megawatts. The project remains in the public consultation phase. It has not received the green light from the Ministry of the Environment.

Stantec Consulting of Guelph is preparing a series of reports related to UDI’s construction and operations plan. Reports are also forthcoming related to environmental impact and monitoring. Uwe Sandner, president of UDI Recyclables, said Friday that further details should be available within four weeks.

UDI staged an open house in Port Dover last November. A second open house will be held in late January or early February. A time and location have yet to be announced.

Eric Gillespie recently represented Haldimand Wind Concerns at a hearing into the Summerhaven wind project near Jarvis before the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal.

Gillespie continues to represent HWC at the review tribunal with regard to the Capital Power wind farm proposal in southwest Haldimand and southeast Norfolk and the Samsung wind proposal in east Haldimand.