PORT RYERSE – A major criticism of the McGuinty Liberals’ green energy plan is its tendency to pit neighbour against neighbour.
Evidence of that was on display Wednesday evening when 40 people gathered on Woolley Road north of Port Ryerse to protest a plan to locate four industrial wind turbines in this neighbourhood.
Woolley Road is as quiet a country road as you are going to find. It is a dead-end lane where the neighbours generate most of the traffic.
But the protesters had a reason for gathering here. The Port Dover & Woodhouse Horticultural Society was having its annual picnic at the home of president and master gardener Anne Faulkner. Faulkner and her husband Wally live in an old home at the end of Woolley Road. They are one of four families in the north end of Port Ryerse that has agreed to play host to wind turbines.
Everyone attending Wednesday’s picnic had to drive through a gauntlet of protesters.
“I think they have every right to protest,” said Wally Faulkner. “But I think it’s in poor taste to picket a society that has done so much good for the community. Their complaint is with us, not the society. But I don’t think it’s going to stop the turbines.”
Suzanne Andrews of Port Ryerse, spokesperson for the protesters, says the timing of the event was no accident. The picnic, she said, presented a prime opportunity to picket Faulkner and others on Woolley Road who have agreed to host turbines.
“This was an available venue,” Andrews said. “Because all the proponents live on a dead-end road, there’s never enough traffic to do it here otherwise. Tonight there is. We love the horticultural society. That’s what one of our signs says. I’d say there’s more of us here tonight than people at the picnic.”
Ill-will toward the four-turbine project has already manifested itself in court. In February, a handful of residents launched a lawsuit against UDI Renewables of Nanticoke and Anne Faulkner, David and Chere Smith, Irene and Donald Steinhoff, and Robert and Erma Woolley for agreeing to play host to the units.
The plaintiffs claim the turbines will decrease their property value. They also worry they will suffer health effects from having these large structures so close to their homes. Documents filed at the Norfolk County courthouse say they are seeking $3.25 million in damages from UDI Renewables and $4.25 million from the property owners who have granted leases.
Heather Walters of Port Ryerse is one of the plaintiffs and an occasional spokesperson for the turbine issue in her hamlet.
“This is a response to all this,” Walters said. “We didn’t ask for this. We have no recourse. Nobody asked us what we think. Five hundred other people in Port Ryerse will have to live with this and that isn’t right. This is one of the few democratic rights we have left, so we’re protesting.”
As it stands, UDI Renewables is in the process of selling its interest in the project to green-energy giant Boralex. According to the latest information, Walters says the courts are willing to move ahead with the lawsuit when and if UDI Renewables or Boralex receive permission to proceed from the Ministry of the Environment. Wally Faulkner confirmed that hasn’t happened yet.
“They’re still jumping through hoops and hurdles,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Protesters from as far afield as West Lincoln, Niagara Region, Haldimand County and Clear Creek participated in Wednesday’s picket.
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