Wind turbine opponents are buoyed by a recent Supreme Court of Ontario ruling that could open the door for property claims against wind turbine companies.
Janet Vallery, president of the Oppose Belwood Wind Farm Association (OBWF) said the ruling opens up potential claims of land devaluation against turbine companies.
“I think it’s positive,” she said after reading claims by both sides in the dispute.
Justice S.E. Healey ruled in a case between owners of a property near Stayner and wpd Canada Corp. which plans to erect eight turbines in a development known as the Fairview Wind Project. The justice ruled landowners near wind farms may suffer from a potential loss in property values, but that claims would have to be brought forward once a project is approved. The Fairview project still has to receive ministry of the environment approval before it can move ahead.
“Even though in this case the court accepts that the plaintiffs have suffered, and are currently suffering, losses culminating in diminished property values, as the evidence exists today the plaintiffs are unable to prove that they have been wronged by the defendants,” the justice ruled.
In the pre-trial, wpd did not present any evidence to back its claim wind turbines do not impact values of surrounding properties. The company has always maintained wind turbines do not result in property value loss.
Lawyer Eric Gillespie, who represents the landowners, said 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,” he said in a media release. “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.”
wpd manager of communications Kevin Surette said, “Similar claims were made to the press from the head of the anti-wind lobby in Ontario.”
“This would seem to be a misrepresentation of the court’s ruling,” wpd president Ian MacRae said.
“The judge simply accepted into the record, as unchallenged, the unproven evidence submitted by the plaintiffs, so that the court could assess whether there could be a legal basis for the claims,” wpd lawyer Jesse Long said. “The evidence is not proof of the plaintiffs’ claims, and the decision does not suggest this. The case was dismissed by Justice Healey prior to wpd entering or challenging evidence, due to the inability of the plaintiffs to establish any legal basis for their claims to proceed to trial.”
The company contends “had the case proceeded to the trial phase, wpd would have challenged the plaintiffs’ evidence.”
“The interesting comment for us is the fact the judge recognized there could be property devaluation. It’s an opportunity to pursue a legal claim to defend yourself and it gives you timing,” Vallery said.
Vallery said the judge’s comment suggests potential claims could be launched once a project is approved. She said the ruling should also make wind turbine operators aware they may face claims on planned projects.
“There are some risks,” she speculated for turbine companies.
In a related matter, the OBWF board of directors is holding a community meeting on May 28 to discuss the status of the wpd project, legal options, as well as providing an update on OBWF activities and next steps.
The group will also be conducting its annual general meeting at the Grand Hall at the Pine Meadows Community Centre.
In accordance with its bylaws, OBWF is seeking candidates for a position on the board of directors for a one-year term. The candidate must be nominated by at least three current OBWF members; must consent to their nomination to stand for election on OBWF board of directors and affirm that they have been a member of OBWF for at least one year:
Nominations must be received prior to May 21 for inclusion in the election.
For any questions on becoming a board member please contact Janet Vallery firstname.lastname@example.org or Dave Hurlburt email@example.com.
On May 11, the Centre Wellington Chamber is going to do a video about the work of OBWF.
The video is being produced as a result of the CW Environmental Excellence Award for which OBWF has been nominated. This video will be played at the Awards Ceremony on Thursday, May 16.
OBWF officials state, it is an opportunity to create awareness and educate the urban community about the risks of wind industrialization.
The event is being held at 6848 Wellington Rd 16 (home of Peter and Sandy Fellows) at 9:45am.
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