A Superior Court of Ontario judge has ruled Wainfleet’s two-kilometre setback for wind turbines invalid.
The decision came down Friday in the lawsuit brought about by Wainfleet Wind Energy Inc. and its owners the Loeffen family and Tom Rankin, head of Rankin Construction, after the township passed its setback bylaw last year.
The bylaw was an attempt by to supersede the Green Energy Act, which prescribes a 550-metre setback – the distance between a residential property and a turbine.
“I know there’s going to be a lot of disappointed people,” said Mayor April Jeffs, who called The Tribune after learning of the decision late Friday afternoon.
Jeffs, with obvious disappointment in her voice, said as much as people outside of Wainfleet think there’s no reason to be opposed to wind turbines and that green energy is good, residents in her township, and across Ontario, have genuine concerns.
“People are worried about their health, getting sick and having to leave their homes. They’re also worried about property devaluation,” she said, adding that, too, was one of her concerns.
Jeffs said some of the five wind turbines proposed by Wainfleet Wind Energy Inc. could have a potential impact on Skydive Burnaby.
“I feel like this is a loss for the people … they were really hoping we’d made some headway. It’s a loss not just for our residents, but for residents in Haldimand, West Lincoln and beyond.”
Despite the judgment, and her own disappointment in the decision rendered by Justice R.B. Reed, the mayor said the decision is not a total loss.
Wainfleet, she said, has paved the way for other municipalities in Ontario and has grabbed a lot of attention in the fight against wind turbines.
“We’ve collaborated with a lot of other municipalities and will continue to do that … we’ll still push forward on this issue,” said Jeffs, adding the township has had a lot of support in its fight.
The mayor doesn’t know yet whether Wainfleet will appeal the decision as she had yet to speak to other councillors. She planned to speak with aldermen and various residents late Friday.
While no dollar figure has been established, sources said the lawsuit could cost Wainfleet upwards of $200,000 for its costs and that of Wainfleet Wind Energy Inc.
In a text message sent to QMI Agency Niagara late Friday, Rankin said “a decision was received today and Judge Reed ruled in our favour. On two occasions, two of our laywers advised the Township Council prior to passing the bylaw that it would be illegal and without getting their own legal counsel opinion they passed the bylaw. I do not want to comment further, but I am obviously pleased that we won.”
— with files from Dan Dakin
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