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Storm brewing over wind farm development

AMHERST – If Natural Forces and the Municipality of Cumberland County thought building three wind turbine’s on the outskirts of Amherst would be a breeze, they appear to be wrong.

“For Natural Forces, no justice for us is going to be no peace for them because we do have legal rights that are far more entrenched than this process would allow for on its own,” said John Laforet during a meeting Tuesday night at the Amherst Golf Club.

The three-turbine wind farm proposed by Natural Forces is to be erected between the John Black Road and the Pumping Station Road, across from D’Orsay Road and the Amherst Golf Club.

Construction could begin early in 2015 and be complete by the end of 2015.

Many of the 120 people who gathered at the Amherst Golf Club are residents who live in the vicinity of the proposed wind farm.

Pam Roberts was born and raised in Cumberland County, and she was one of the speakers at Tuesday’s meeting.

“Natural Forces has proposed to build a six mega-watt, three-turbine wind farm,” said Roberts. “It will be approximately 1,000 metres from all residential dwellings. The turbines are much like the existing turbines you see on the marsh today.”

She then introduced Laforet.

“John is the principal of Broadview Strategy Group a communications firm with offices in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, British Columbia and Ontario, where he is originally from,” said Roberts. “He is the former president of Wind Concerns Ontario which is a not-for-profit organization that brought together 58 community groups in that province that were concerned about projects like these.”

Laforet recently bought a home in Amherst, and if there was any doubt as to his pedigree with regards to protesting windmills he dispelled those notions during the meeting.

“The reason I’m here today talking to you is because in 2008 I was concerned about 60 wind turbines two kilometres off the Scarborough Bluffs in Lake Ontario,” said Laforet. “We fought for two years, we got an offshore moratorium and $11 billion worth of projects died because the wind industry wouldn’t respect reality on the kinds of impacts they have.”

Laforet isn’t so much against wind turbines as he is in what calls the ‘nonsense arguments and oversimplifications that are coming from Natural Forces’ with regards to health and property value issues.

“They don’t have a monopoly on the truth. As we demonstrated, there’s a real question about whether or not they even know what that is as it relates to health or property values,” said Laforet.

Concerns about health and property values took centre stage at the meeting, as did the notion that Natural Forces has the support of the community to build the wind farm.

Roberts dispelled that notion.

She says three landowners, one who lives in Liverpool, will be the only ones to benefit from the turbines.

“Social justice is not demanding that the people who live here take all the risks while the people in Halifax and the landowners take all the benefits,” said Roberts.

She says Natural Forces had a public meeting to talk about the wind farm and 40 people attended the meeting.

“Sixteen of the 40 people filled out a questionnaire at the meeting, and 56.25 per cent said they were in favour of the wind farm,” said Roberts. “That means nine people said they were in favour and seven said no we’re not in favour. They’re saying that is the majority. Of the nine who said they were in favour they can’t tell us where they were from.”

Roberts and Laforet both say nine people is a flimsy majority to base the building of the windmills upon and many people in the crowd showed their approval of their assessment.

Two representatives from Natural Forces were in the crowd and Laforet mocked one of them several times for smiling during the meeting.

After one person got up to speak about the health problems she has experienced from the wind turbines Laforet asked him to come to the front to respond.

“I’m thinking it might be interesting, but possibly dangerous, to call on our smiling friend to respond to that,” said Laforet.

Andy MacCallum, vice president of developments of Natural Forces, got up to speak to the crowd. He didn’t appear to be dangerous.

“I understand concerns people have with this project but I don’t think this is the venue to address these concerns,” said McCallum. “To address these concerns, these serious issues, it takes honest and respectful dialogue and I don’t think we can have here right now.”

He attended the meeting with Amy Pellerin, a development engineer with Natural Forces.

“I’m here to listen and Amy is here to listen, so what I’m going to do is leave a stack of my business cards and Amy’s business cards and if anybody has any comments, questions or concerns regarding this project please call us,” said MacCallum. “Call our cell phones either day or night. We’re also up here every week. We’re more than happy to work through these issues.”

After the meeting MacCallum spoke to the woman with the health issues.

“I’ve known Cheryl for a while. We tend to have good relationships with people who are effected, the few people in the province who are effected by turbines,” said MacCallum. “It’s people like that you want to stay even more in touch with.”

And what did he think of Laforet’s presentation?

“He’s a professional. If there’s going to be fight we’re going to have to dig our heels in and stand up for what we believe in, and this project is one of them,” said MacCallum. “Obviously there’s going to be more work and we’re going to continue to consult accordingly.”

How did he feel about being called upon to address the crowd?

“It’s my job. It’s fine. That’s why we’re here.”

He says there will be more public consultations and the consultation process will continue for the lifespan of the project, which is about 20-years.

A petition was circulated after the meeting and 83 of the 120 people in attendance signed the petition.

“We will end up with more signatures as many people took the petition home to gather more signatures for us,” said Roberts.