Wainfleet isn’t as vast and wide open a rural landscape as people think it is, says Mayor April Jeffs, standing not far from where two wind turbines will be erected.
“There’s this perception that homes are far away from each other, I hear it all the time.”
Jeffs says Wainfleet may be one of the larger municipalities in Niagara in terms of geographical area, but the rural landscape is broken up by pockets of homes and hamlets that will make it difficult for turbines not to be seen.
The site of two of Wainfleet Wind Energy Inc.’s planned turbines is off Station Rd., which runs between Concession 1 and Lakeshore Rd., and there are at least a 200 homes which will have a view of them.
“The turbines are going to be bigger than the ones in the Lowbanks-Highbanks area of Haldimand. They’ll really stand out.”
Tom Rankin, one of the partners in Wainfleet Wind Energy Inc., doesn’t agree with Jeffs’ assessment about Wainfleet’s spacing.
Rankin says there are homes near the Station Rd. site, but the other site, near Sideroad 22 off of Concession 1, doesn’t have many homes near it all.
Jeffs says township residents are very concerned about the turbines, especially when it comes to health effects and property values.
“We’ve heard of people walking away from their homes in other municipalities because they don’t want to live near them.”
The mayor says some people in Wainfleet have suggested they may do the same once turbines from both Wainfleet Wind Energy Inc. and Niagara Region Wind Corp. go up.
She says others may go to Municipal Property Assessment Corp. and request their properties be reassessed.
“All it takes is for one or two properties to be reassessed and it will snowball from there.”
With residential properties making up most of Wainfleet’s tax base, a reduction in property taxes would be a big blow and hamper things such as road repairs.
“It’s a bad situation all around.”
Rankin says the talk of noise, health effects and property devaluation is all a “bunch of nonsense.”
“Noise is not an issue … there’s more noise with the wind and leaves rustling, and animals, than with the windmills,” he says, adding the company has carried out noise studies.
Health effects, he says, have been studied worldwide and experts have determined there are no adverse effects.
“Their (opponents) arguments have no substance … they don’t have a scientific leg to stand on in my opinion.”
As for property values, he says, in places like Bruce County and Chatham-Kent, farmland has increased in value.
Jeffs says people from outside the township have told her turbines could be good for Wainfleet, putting the township on the map.
“We’ll only have 15 to 20 turbines, other municipalities will have a couple hundred. How will that put us on the map? How is it worth it? We’ll only get minimal power from these turbines.”
Wind turbines aren’t going to attract people to the township, she says. A place such as Skydive Burnaby, which could be affected by the siting of two of the towers, brings people to Wainfleet and puts it on the map.
“We’ve already seen one skydive facility move out of Haldimand,” she says, referring to Niagara Skydive Centre now located at Niagara Central Airport in Pelham.
Jeffs says residents are genuinely worried about their health and property values, adding that’s why she and township council have been so vocal against turbines.
“We get accused of NIMBYism, but it’s OK for people in Oakville and Mississauga to band together and fight the gas plants and get them cancelled. Why can (wind turbine) proponents fight for what they believe? Why isn’t OK for us to stand up for what we believe? They (proponents) think it’s a good thing – there’s a lot of people that don’t, though,” she said.
Rankin understands the mayor must stand up for residents, but says, “you can’t build anything today without having negativity toward it.”
The owner of Rankin Construction Inc. says he doesn’t know why Jeffs is making such a fuss over the turbines. He says late mayor Gord Harry was in favour of them and during a public meeting a crowd of 125 people never raised an objection. Rankin first proposed wind turbines for Wainfleet several years ago, before the province changed the qualifications and rules surrounding them.