It’s an issue that has divided a community and on Monday night in Smithville, the two sides of the wind turbine debate faced off.
With proponents wearing bright green shirts and opponents carrying signs, the opposing views mixed like oil and water in the tiny West Lincoln council chambers.
An official from Niagara Region Wind Corporation, which wants to build 77 wind turbines in West Lincoln, Wainfleet and Lincoln, had asked to make a 10-minute presentation to councillors Monday night about a job fair taking place Tuesday in Dunnvillle and next Monday in West Lincoln.
But when more than 200 people showed up, far exceeding the capacity of the Township of West Lincoln council chambers, councillors voted unanimously to postpone the meeting until Jan. 9, when it can be held across the street at South Lincoln High School.
“Clearly, this chambers cannot accommodate this large number of attendees present for this meeting,” Mayor Douglas Joyner said after a resolution was put forward to postpone the meeting.
But that decision angered the turbine proponents, who were more visible than they’ve been so far in the contentious debate over the project.
“They’ve had three weeks’ notice for this meeting,” said Cathy Vitucci, a landowner in Wellandport who has signed a contract with NRWC to allow a wind turbine on her property. “There have been many times where this chamber has been filled and we’ve had to stand out in the hallway and they’ve continued on with the meeting while (opponents) spoke.
“Now they decide (to postpone). But that’s fine. It gives us more time to rally,” she said.
Randi Rahamim, a vice-president with Bridgepoint Group, the company behind the NRWC, said she had originally requested to speak at the Dec. 3 council meeting, but was asked to come Monday night instead because last week was West Lincoln’s budget meeting.
“We’ve constantly heard from council ‘why don’t you come and tell us something good.’ So we took them up on their offer. All I was doing was coming to update them on the job fairs,” Rahamim said. “I’m amazed if council thought there would be such a big turnout, they wouldn’t have secured a better location.”
However, Joyner said West Lincoln staff did try to find another venue.
“It’s the holiday season and facilities were booked,” he said. “We called around to all of the facilities and there was no suitable facility available.”
Where the Township of West Lincoln chamber can only hold 55 people, the gymnasium at South Lincoln can hold more than 400, Joyner said.
The wind turbine project has proven incredibly divisive in west Niagara.
“It has torn the social fabric to shreds and has pitted family member against family member,” said Neil Switzer, who heads up the West Lincoln and Glanbrook Wind Action Group, which opposes wind turbines.
The NRWC has released its draft plans and reports and is now in a 60-day public review period. The next official stage is a series of public meetings Feb. 5-7 in Grimsby, Lincoln, Pelham, West Lincoln, Wainfleet and Haldimand County.
The Niagara Region Wind Corporation wants to build a 230-megawatt wind farm in the Niagara Region and Haldimand county.
A company official said Monday night the project will generate 770 jobs over the next 20 years. Over the next week, two wind energy job and supplier fairs will be held where the NRWC, building contractor PCL, turbine manufacturer Enercon and Thorold’s TSB Canada Towers will be looking for new workers.
They’ll be held:
Dec. 11, 5-8 p.m.
Dunnville Community Centre 275 Ramsey Dr.
Dec. 17, 5-8 p.m.
Wellandport Community Centre
5042 Canborough Rd.