Lambton County politicians have deferred a decision on whether to join a potentially precedent-setting legal challenge to halt further wind turbine development.
Plympton-Wyoming Mayor Lonny Napper asked for the deferral until next month at Wednesday’s county council meeting in order for council to receive more clarification on the request being put forward by local anti-wind activists.
But Coun. Anne Marie Gillis, who was among several councillors who were opposed to the deferral, believes there was enough information to make a decision Wednesday.
At the end of the day, she noted, county policy stipulates taxpayer money cannot be used to help individuals with an issue outside Lambton County or local individuals with a matter outside of the county.
“Our rules are very clear and for that reason, we won’t be able to give any money or any support in that regard,” she said after the council meeting.
In September, local residents representing several anti-wind turbine groups made a pitch to council asking for the county to become involved in a Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge. They initially asked council to become an intervenor on a case involving Goderich-area property owners Shawn and Trisha Drennan.
Since then, anti-wind activists have changed the focus of their request. They’re now asking the county to become a participant in two Charter applications – one involving the Drennans, the other involving two East Huron families – before the Environmental Review Tribunal.
But county solicitor David Cribbs believes decisions arising from these cases are “essentially guaranteed” to be appealed at least before the divisional court because of the legal and financial issues at stake, according to a staff report.
Cribbs also reiterated in his latest report that he remains “extremely comfortable” with his assessment of costs. He believes the county could face a legal bill well over the $20,000 estimate provided by the lawyer representing both cases.
On Wednesday, members of We’re Against Industrial Turbines (W.A.I.T.) Plympton-Wyoming said securing money from the county isn’t as important to them as getting the county’s endorsement of these Charter challenges.
“This is part of the misunderstanding,” said WAIT-PW member Elizabeth Bellavance, noting the group could raise funds from concerned property owners to help with legal costs.
WAIT-PW activists were pleased that council deferred its decision, but they admitted they have to address several misconceptions about their request, including their partnership with two out-of-town cases.
“Our primary concern is Lambton County and when you can partner with others, it helps,” WAIT-PW member Mary-Lynn Cooper said.
Aside from health impacts, Bellavance said there are local residents who stand to lose property value due to the development of wind turbines near their homes.
“There are impacts that could have long lasting effects,” she said.
Members of Safe Wind Energy for All (SWEAR) and WAIT-PW don’t currently have another meeting lined up with the county.
“I really wish the county would ask us to come back and provide more information,” WAIT-PW member Dave Bartlett said.
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