WEST LINCOLN —Zlata Zoretic can see three wind turbines from her bedroom window.
Her Twenty Road home is surrounded by the HAF wind energy project. The turbine closest to her home is a mere 640 metres away – just shy of 100 metres over the provincial setback of 550 metres. And thanks in part to the efforts of a local citizens group, Zoretic recently learned two of the turbines are even closer to her property than provincial regulations allow.
The West Lincoln Glanbrook Wind Action Group used a range finder to determine the distances of the five turbines from the property lines after a property owner raised concerns that one of the five turbines appeared closer than 95 metres from her property line. The Ministry of Environment has confirmed the group’s allegations that four of the five turbines infract the property line setback regulation stipulated in the Green Energy Act. Under the legislation, turbines must be the height of the tower, from base to hub from the property line – which in the case of the HAF project is 95 metres.
Two of the turbines are five metres too close to Zoretic’s property.
“Take them down,” said Zoretic outside West Lincoln council chambers Monday night, moments after the planning, building and environmental committee unanimously supported a resolution asking the province to do just that – and to immediately halt all wind projects in Ontario. “They shouldn’t be there in the first place.”
The motion, introduced by Alexander Micallef, comes a little more than a week after Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak, MPP for Niagara West-Glanbrook, renewed his call for a moratorium and demanded the province take down the HAF project turbines in light of the setback violations.
“They are violating legislation in my opinion,” said Micallef on introducing the motion, which also asks the province to review the negative impacts of its Green Energy Act. “This is something this council and a lot of our constituents have a lot of concern with. It’s frustrating.”
According to the ministry, the HAF project cannot go online until the property line matter is resolved. And according to West Lincoln council, there is only way to resolve the matter: take the turbines down. The resolution also calls on the province to ensure all current and future wind farms comply with regulations – without any exceptions.
“It’s very, very disheartening,” said Coun. Lou DiLeonardo of the situation. “I wonder what would happen if people just started building houses, pools and sheds wherever they want.”
According to planning director Brian Treble, applicants have the option to encroach the setback regulations if they have written permission from the abutting property owner. Niagara Region Wind Corp., which has an application before the province for a 77-turbine project centred in West Lincoln, has chosen to take that route.
Proponents of the HAF project – which is jointly owned by Vineland Power Inc. and Rankin Wind Energy – did not seek permission and are now seeking to rectify the situation.
“Both are not fair. Both do not deal with the rules and the regulations of the Green Energy Act,” said Mayor Doug Joyner. “That’s what’s really upsetting to us in West Lincoln.”
Both council and its constituents are demanding the province right the situation.
“Nobody is above the law,” said a woman identifying herself only as Mrs. Sherman. “They should be held accountable.”
Ontario’s Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli confirmed in a letter dated March 4, 2014, to Hudak, that Vineland Power Inc. has indicated it plans to apply for an amendment to its approval. The ministry of environment is requesting clarification on a number of items before accepting any such application, according to the energy minister.
“This information will be used by the MOE to review the nature of the project change and to determine the level of significance of the proposed amendment,” wrote Chiarelli. “Following the review of the information, the MOE will advise Vineland Power Inc. of next steps regarding a formal REA amendment application. The next steps will include notification/consultation with affected land owners.”
Chiarelli said amendments are allowed, and do occur, under the ministry’s regulations. He also stated the approvals process allows turbines closer to property lines provided a property assessment is done to ensure there are no surrounding land use concerns.
West Lincoln resident Anne Fairfield – who along with partner Ed Engel is appealing the province’s approval of the project based on human rights violations – warned council if they didn’t support Micallef’s motion, the township could find itself in the same predicament as Middlesex Count is in now.
“I hope that you will all vote in favour of this motion,” said Fairfield, holding up advertisments from a London, Ont. newspaper for a notice to change the Renewable Energy Approval. “Hopefully this will avert this kind of advertising for West Lincoln.”
Wendy Veldman, Zoretic’s neihbour, said she was thankful for council’s support.
“It’s wonderful to have their ongoing support,” said Veldman. “I really feel they are trying to do what is right for their constituents.”
“It’s a small step in a big fight,” added Engel.
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