Clearview Township residents cannot at this time proceed with claims against Wpd Canada and its associates regarding the company’s proposed industrial wind turbine project, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled Monday.
“I think the decision made by the superior court of justice was a decisive win for us,” Wpd spokesperson Kevin Surette said. “The case as brought forward by the plaintiffs was unequivocally dismissed because the evidence didn’t support their claims.”
The court dismissed the claims based on the fact the eight-turbine project has yet to receive provincial approval.
“The plaintiffs are unable to prove, currently, that the Fairview Wind Project will be built,” Madam Justice S.E. Healey wrote in her decision.
But the court said if the province approves the project the plaintiffs can move ahead with the action.
“There are many people who have been waiting to see how the courts would respond to these types of claims,” said Toronto-based lawyer Eric Gillespie, whose firm represents the plaintiffs. “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.”
Last year, about 20 Clearview Township residents living near the proposed turbine development, just west of Stayner, launched a lawsuit against Wpd, as well as Beattie Brothers Ltd., and Ed Beattie and Son Ltd., which own the land where the eight turbines would be located.
The plaintiffs say the proposal is devaluing their land and causing a loss of use and enjoyment.
Gillespie said the plaintiffs filed extensive evidence in court that was not challenged by Wpd or the landowners.
The court, Gillespie noted, accepted evidence from appraiser Ben Lansink, stating properties near the turbine sites have been devalued 22 to 50 per cent due to the proposal.
In ruling, the court noted it accepted the plaintiffs have suffered and are suffering property value losses.
The court also accepted evidence from Dr. Robert McMurty, regarding the health affects of wind turbines. He said there is a high probability the proposal will cause one or more negative effects to properties, such as audible noise and low frequency noise.
He said there is high probability the turbines will cause such things as sleep disturbance, headaches, tinnitus and dizziness.
The court also received evidence from Richard James, an Institute of Noise Control Engineering acoustician, who said the project will probably exceed the provincially permitted 40-decibel thresholds for wind turbine noise.
John Wiggins, who with his wife Sylvia launched the lawsuit, is encouraged by the court’s decision.
“The fact that a major wind company and a court accepted this kind of evidence as being proven on this motion appears to be unprecedented,” he said in a statement. “Government and wind proponents around the world have been denying for many years that turbines devalue properties and cause adverse health effects. To have a multi-national wind company and a court agree that these kinds of problems can be taken as proven elsewhere in the context of this motion, and that a court accepts property losses of 22 to 50 per cent or more are in fact already occurring in Ontario right now, appears to be a real victory.”
Surette said the evidence was presented early in the proceedings and that should be kept in mind.
“There’s a difference between accepting evidence and validating evidence,” he said. “And had the process continued…had the judge decided let’s go to a full trial, we would have presented evidence to the contrary. And we would have challenged the evidence that was put forward.”
Gillespie said that if and when the wind project is approved his clients will be ready to proceed with their action.
Currently the Wpd application is before the Ontario Ministry of Environment. Officials have yet to deem it complete. Once that happens, the province has a six-month period to approve the project or reject it.
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