Judge recognizes turbine property devaluation; Court allows for future lawsuits against wind companies, host landowners
West Lincoln residents who oppose the construction of industrial wind turbines in their community are pinning their hopes on a recent provincial court ruling.
While the ruling won’t prevent the storeys-high concrete giants from being built in West Lincoln, it will give “non-participating neighbours” an opportunity to protect themselves should their property values plummet.
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has determined that while residents of Clearview Township cannot bring claims for a proposed industrial wind project at this time, the ruling is “without prejudice to the plaintiffs’ rights to commence an action for identical or similar relief when and if the Fairview Wind Project receives the necessary approvals to be constructed.”
The court has specifically recognized that claims against wind companies and against landowners who agree to host wind turbines are possible as soon as projects receive approval.
“There are many people who have been waiting to see how the courts would respond to these types of claims,” said lawyer Eric Gillespie, whose firm acts for the plaintiffs in the actions. “It now seems clear that as soon as a project is approved residents can start a claim. This appears to be a major step forward for people with concerns about industrial wind projects across Ontario.”
For Wellandport resident Catherine Mitchell, the decision restores at least some of her community’s democratic rights.
“This decision recognizes the democratic rights of the citizens of this country,” said Mitchell, who has spoken publicly about her opposition to wind turbines near her peaceful country home several times at West Lincoln council. “Civility dictates that you can not do something on your property that has a negative impact on mine without compensating me for my loss. Given that government ministers, ministries, agencies and municipalities have an ethical duty and legal obligation to protect the health, safety, quality of life and well being of citizens and their properties this decision is a major victory for the non-participating neighbours that have been negatively impacted by this ‘Green Energy’ scam.”
Gillespie expects the number of claims to rise as the Ontario government carries on its path to produce 10,000 megawatts of Ontario’s energy needs from renewable sources by 2018.
“Dozens of plaintiffs who have already started actions appear to have had the right to bring claims validated,” he said. “We can definitely expect more claims now that this door has been opened.”
The claim was filed by Sylvia and John Wiggins, who were selling their 48-acre horse farm. The $2 million suit was filed against both wpd Canada Corp. and a farm corporation that signed lease agreements with wpd. They said no one would buy their property when the eight-turbine wind project was announced. They were joined by other property owners.
“Wind corporations and politicians have been saying for many years that wind turbines don’t devalue property,” Gillespie said in an interview with the Toronto Star.
“This is a court finding that they do, even before a project has been approved and constructed,” he said
“In the minds of our clients, that’s a major breakthrough,” he added.
Kevin Surette, spokesman for wpd, downplayed the significance of the ruling, noting that it came at an early stage in the proceedings.
The court’s acceptance which the property values near the proposed wind farm have suffered came before the wind company made its case, he said.
“The court is basing that opinion on the evidence presented by the plaintiffs,” he told The Star. “We have not, and we had not, presented evidence on our side, and we haven’t challenged their evidence.
“Had the case proceeded, we would have challenged those claims.”
That wind development is before the Ministry of Environment. Also before the ministry are two proposed wind projects for the West Lincoln area – a 77 megawatt plan by Niagara Region Wind Corp. and a five-turbine project proposed by IPC Energy.
— With files from Toronto Star
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