The mayor of Wainfleet said taking on wind energy companies is worth the fight.
After passing a bylaw in the spring overruling the province’s rule for how close to houses wind turbines can be built, the township was promptly sued by a wind developer.
On Tuesday, Mayor April Jeffs made a deposition in St. Catharines in the lawsuit against her town by Wainfleet Wind Energy, which wants to build five wind turbines on land leased to it by private landowners.
Local developer Tom Rankin, a partner in Wainfleet Wind Energy, said while the lawsuit is to get the bylaw overturned, he wouldn’t rule out suing for financial damages.
“If our project is delayed because of this, we probably will go after damages,” Rankin said.
The lawsuit states Wainfleet bylaw 013-2012, which requires a setback of 2,000 metres from a house to a wind turbine (rather than the provincially mandated 550 metres), goes beyond the powers of the township.
Wainfleet staff also told council it had no authority to pass the bylaw because the province’s Green Energy Act supersedes local decision-making.
But Jeffs said someone had to take a stance.
“We heard a lot from residents who are fearful of the health effects and property devaluation,” she said. “Our council has never looked back and we’ve never second-guessed it. We have support from our and other communities.”
The lawsuit is expected to head to court in February, but Wainfleet Wind Energy is moving forward in project planning.
The development is currently in a 45-day public consultation period with the Ministry of the Environment. Once that window closes, the MOE will have up to six months to decide if the project can proceed or not.
West Lincoln resident Margarett Sample hopes the answer is no.
“For us there are the health issues and the property values,” she said. “A lot of people have saved for years to move to the country and have built dream homes. For a lot of us, it’s our retirement investment.”
Sample was one of about a dozen wind protesters in front of the St. Catharines law office where Jeffs was making her deposition Tuesday.
Rankin is hoping if all goes well, construction on the Wainfleet wind farm will get started sometime in 2013.
A separate 77-turbine wind development for West Niagara could also be affected by the Wainfleet bylaw.
Niagara Region Wind Corporation spokeswoman Randi Rahamim wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit, but said the company stands behind the existing 550-metre regulation.
“We don’t have any similar lawsuit in the works as (Wainfleet’s) bylaw is unenforceable, as recognized by their own staff in their council staff report,” she said.
Wainfleet Wind Energy
Wind Turbines: 5 x 1.8 megawatt
Hub Height: 95 metres
Rotor Diameter: 100 metres
Est. Power Generation: 26 million KWh/year
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