WEST LINCOLN – A discovery by a West Lincoln property owner has stalled operation of industrial wind turbines in West Lincoln – for now.
A spokesperson for Ontario Environment Minister Jim Bradley confirmed via email Monday the ministry is aware that three of the five HAF Wind Energy turbines are in violation of setback requirements. While the turbines are 550 metres from the closest home, three do not meet property line setbacks established by the ministry.
“It appeared to the blind eye that they were too close to my property,” said Anne Meinen, a Beamsville resident who owns property in West Lincoln.
Meinen took her concerns to the West Lincoln Glanbrook Wind Action Group, which helped her determine the distance of the turbine from her property.
Group chairman Neil Switzer said the group used a range finder to establish the setback distances to ensure they didn’t encroach on the host property. They found four setback infractions, with the largest affecting Meinen’s property.
The 95-metre tower is 27 metres too close to her property. Meinen said the ministry’s allowance for the three turbines to be built is unacceptable.
“This is not a pro or con wind turbine issue,” said Meinen. “The issue is that somebody built something contrary to regulations and encroaching on my property lines … there are regulations regarding the setback distance from property lines for a reason, including ensuring my ability to enjoy my property, for my safety and the protection of my property values, amongst others. For this turbine to be constructed where it was, is completely unacceptable and I await word from (the ministry) on what they plan to do about it.”
Switzer said if somebody had built a shed or out-building too close to a neighbor, they would immediately be issued with an order.
“If you build anything else out of compliance, you would get slapped with a stop work order,” said Switzer. “It seems likely the wind company will get another free pass.”
Under the Green Energy Act, wind turbines that are less than the hub-height – 95 metres in the case of the HAF project – from the nearest property boundary require a written submission demonstrating the proposed turbine will not result in adverse impacts on nearby business, infrastructure, properties of land use activities. The HAF Wind Energy project was approved in June 2013 without the required submissions.
More than one ministry spokesperson skirted around the question of how the HAF Wind Energy project was approved without the required documents.
“This ministry is aware of the issue and will be taking appropriate action,” said Sarah Raetesen, senior program support coordinator with the ministry. “The project cannot commence operation until this matter is resolved to the satisfaction of the ministry. The ministry will be meeting with the developer to discuss this matter.”
That answer on behalf of Vic Shroter, director of the ministry’s environmental approvals branch, was similar to one provided by Lydnsay Miller on behalf of Bradley, who is also MPP for St. Catharines riding.
“The ministry is aware of the issue and is taking the appropriate steps to make sure the project is in compliance with the setback requirements,” wrote Miller in an email. “The project cannot go into operation until this matter is resolved to the satisfaction of the ministry. The rules must be followed.”
Tom Rankin, whose Rankin Wind Energy is a 50 per cent stakeholder in the project, refused to comment, stating it “would just stir the pot.”
Tom Lewis, project manager for IPC Energy, the consultant firm that developed the project, did not respond to interview requests by deadline.
According to WLGWAG, a ministry official said a “new precedent will be set to legitimize the setback deficiencies” by allowing the wind company to retroactively acquire permission from the impacted neighbours.
Meinen said she has yet to be contacted by Rankin, Vineland Power Inc. or IPC Energy on the matter.
Niagara Region Wind Corp., which also has plans for a 77-turbine project, has already negotiated agreements for its project, members of the public learned Monday. During that day’s planning, building and environmental committee meeting, council discussed consultant Ray Duhamel’s review of the corporation’s renewable energy approval application.
The resolution passed by committee Monday, which needs to be verified at the Feb. 24 council meeting, requests that NRWC be required to comply with all setback requirements of the GEA without exception.
“Is it any wonder that our residents, including me, want to pull their hair out?” asked Coun. Sue-Ellen Merritt, commenting the number of amendments and exceptions both wind developers have sought throughout the process. “We see all these exceptions being made and I feel they shouldn’t happen.”
Merritt said the HAF developer should be forced to comply.
“All their ducks are not in a row,” she said, noting the developer began construction at their own risk. “Why have rules and regulations if we don’t have to abide by them?”
Mayor Doug Joyner also expressed his frustration with the situation Monday.
“It’s not fair, and I made that perfectly clear with the various ministries today,” he said.
Switzer said the setback violations “illustrate the arrogance and disrespect” of the wind turbine industry. He is demanding the government cancel the project immediately. The WLGWAG is asking the community to stand up with them and voice their dismay.
“Do the right thing and cancel the permit,” Switzer urged.
Wendy Veldman, whose home is 550 metres from the closest wind turbine, said this is just another example of their rights being taken away.
“The ministry is supposed to be there to protect us,” she said. “We really have lost our rights in Ontario. It’s time for Ontarians to realize what is going on.”
Committee also heard from Ed Engel and Anne Fairfield, who have appealed the province’s approval of the HAF project on behalf of WLGWAG. The couple appealed to committee for a grant to help cover legal fees.
“It’s a win-win-win for all,” said Fairfield. “What we stand to lose is our health, our wealth, our environment and our community as we know it. No is the time for us to help each other.”
Committee deferred discussion to budget deliberations.
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