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Wind turbine meeting turns to shouting match

What had been a relatively quiet public meeting Thursday night in the Millennium Room of the Asphodel-Norwood Community Centre quickly turned into a shouting match as residents opposed to wind farm projects demanded answers.

It all started when Manvers Township resident Daryl Irwin, called for Collie Hill Wind Farm project manager Bill York “to stand up and answer some questions“ about three 1.8-megawatt wind turbines Wind Farms Collie Hill LP plans to construct on property west of Hastings.

Residents opposed to the proliferation of wind farm projects across the province converged on York to demand answers to their many questions about the impact of wind turbines on health, the environment and property values.

“You’ve got to answer the questions of this community, because they’ve been bamboozled,” said Irwin, who has been involved in opposing similar wind turbine projects southwest of Peterborough. “This is the final meeting, and they want answers to their questions,” he said.

Asphodel-Norwood resident Debbie Lynch, who earlier had tried to remove maps displayed around the room, claiming they contained inaccuracies, blew a whistle in York’s ear to get his attention and demanded to know why the information had not been posted on the company website and made publicly available 60 days before the final meeting as required by provincial legislation.

“If you lie to me I’m blowing the whistle, I’m blowing the whistle on lies,” said Lynch.

“This is a final meeting, and this is a current map that we have made available,” York said, moving away and telling the approximately 60 people in the room he would answer their questions individually.

But wind turbine opponents followed York across the room, shouting out their message. “The community is not going to take it,” Irwin said.

“Keep your turbines, they are not wanted,” another man shouted.

“Go away,” a woman said.

“The overwhelming community support is not for your project sir,” said Graham Hawkridge, of Pontypool. “It’s all about dollars, there’s nothing clean about this project.”

Asphodel-Norwood Township resident Graham Sanders challenged York to explain why property values plunge wherever wind turbines are constructed. “There are properties on Wolfe Island that are unsaleable,” he said.

Sanders and his wife purchased a house in the township 11 years ago, and now their home will be only 1,100 metres from the closest of the three wind turbines. “We’ve spend a fair amount of money on it, and we’re probably going down the drain,” he told The Community Press.

“I’m extremely upset, because these are being forced on us,” Sanders said, noting he also has concerns about the health issues related to wind turbines. “There are health issues that proponents deny that are related to sleep, and other forms of sickness that are well documented on the internet.”

But York said international and Canadian studies don’t support the claim that property values fall when wind turbines are built nearby. “I always encourage the landowners to go to the tax assessor in the area where there’s a wind farm. They are the ones that know what’s happened in property values. And basically they’ll find out that property values have stayed the same, they haven’t changed at all.”

York said studies also show there is no scientific proof that wind turbines have a negative impact on human health. “I know Ontario is doing its own study, and will find the same results as in the past,” he said.

York added the company has commissioned studies of the impact of the project on the environment, endangered species, birds and bats and wetlands. “We’ve also done cultural and natural heritage studies and an archeological review, and all these reports will go into the Ministry of the Environment for review,” he said.

Lynch, however, stressed that “the biggest issue with wind turbines” is that there are too many unknowns related to their effect on human health and property values.

“But what is known is that our hydro bills have gone up, and are predicted to go up even higher,” she said, questioning the economic benefits of wind turbine power. “How many people were into wind energy before there were subsidies, how many before the FIT programs came out?”

Pontypool resident and wind turbine opponent Andrew Hoag pointed to how wind turbines are affecting the environment and landscape in parts of Ontario where wind farms have proliferated. “Basically you’re turning an area into an industrial wasteland is what you are doing, no matter how green you say you want to be.”