Lambton County is considering joining a potentially precedent-setting legal battle that could impact future wind turbine development in Ontario.
Representatives from several anti-wind turbine groups made an impassioned plea to county council Wednesday, asking them to become involved in a Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge.
Last fall, property owners Shawn and Trisha Drennan sought an injucture to stop further development on the K2 wind farm near their Goderich-area property until the federal government finishes its current study of the potential health impacts of industrial wind turbines.
Members of Safe Wind Energy for All (SWEAR) have sponsored the case and are seeking municipalities to become intervenors in the case, allowing them to possibly benefit from the ruling.
County council was asked for a $20,000 financial commitment to help cover some of the legal costs associated with the case.
Becoming a part of the Charter challenge would be the next step in the county’s support of a moratorium on wind turbine development, local anti-wind activist Ingrid Willemsen told council Wednesday.
The county can expect to see decreasing property values, increasing conflict amongst neighbours and growing healthcare costs if wind turbine development continues to move forward, she noted.
“This has happened elsewhere in Ontario and it will happen here,” she said.
Plympton-Wyoming Mayor Lonny Napper agreed.
“I think it’s time we step up to the government a little bit,” he said, putting a motion on the floor for the county to become an intervenor.
His motion drew a roar of applause from supporters who packed council chambers Wednesday.
However, Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley urged the county to exercise caution before committing its support to the case.
Before signing on, Bradley said he would like to see a staff report outlining any potential liabilities the county may face in its participation in the case.
He also believes the fight for a moratorium should remain on the political stage, not necessarily in the courtrooms.
“I don’t believe the political fight is over,” he said, pointing to the province’s recent reversal of its decision to close the Sarnia Jail. “We’ve shown it can work on other issues.”
When asked for his legal opinion, county solicitor David Cribbs said he wasn’t ready to weigh in until he reviewed the case and prepared a staff report.
However, he said the county would have to prove it has a valid interest in the case in order to become an intervenor.
Cribbs also questioned the estimate of legal costs, especially if the case makes its way to the Supreme Court of Canada.
“I can say I strongly disagree with the cost estimate of $20,000,” he said.
However, Willemsen said the issue is more about getting the county’s support of the case.
“We don’t want the money to be the problem,” she said. “We can find the money.”
More than $250,000 has already been raised, noted Dave Hemmingway, of SWEAR.
Local anti-wind activist Elizabeth Bellavance said the court case is the next logical step because citizens have raised their concerns time and time again with the province.
“I don’t see – and I’m sure many here also don’t see – a solution to save us in the meantime here in Lambton County,” said Bellavance, of Wind Action Industrial Turbines. “Our backs are up against the wall.”
Council ended up voting in favour of tabling the motion until a staff report is prepared for the Sept. 18 committee meeting. The matter will then come back before council on Oct. 2.
In the meantime, the preliminary hearing for the Drennans’ case is slated for Sept. 13.
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