A plan to erect as many as 65 giant wind turbines is generating fierce opposition, because the map for possible locations butts up to the urban and suburban areas of Belle River and Puce where most Lakeshore residents live.
“It is a huge concern of mine, it just spoils everything,” Jacques Goulet, a Puce resident who is running for deputy mayor in the Oct. 27 municipal election, and is vowing to oppose any turbines located near developed areas. He said he has nothing against putting these massive windmills on farmland in less-populated areas, but locating them near the growth areas in the northeast corner of the town will stifle future development and devalue the homes people have built in recent years.
“Every single homeowner I talk to can’t stand the things,” he said, claiming that almost every one of the approximately 300 people who attended an open house Tuesday – put on by the companies proposing the turbines – opposes them. Most of the land in the map is farmland between Highway 401 in the south to County Road 42 in the north. But the boundary also reaches further north in the Belle River and Puce areas, into subdivisions and along Notre Dame Street. Just east of Belle River, the boundary reaches right to the Lake St. Clair shoreline.
The area goes all the way west to Manning Road.
“It’s right through the heart of Lakeshore,” said Mayor Tom Bain, who said council has directed staff to see what powers the town may have to oppose the plan. Premier Kathleen Wynne has recently assured municipalities they’d have more power over approval of wind turbine projects, after earlier changes to the approval process that took those powers away, Bain said.
“We’re having staff get clarification,” about what powers council may have, he said.
There are already about 100 turbines in Lakeshore, but most are located in rural areas east of Belle River like Tilbury North and Tilbury West. And farmers have wanted them, because they provide income in the form of land leases. “I guess it’s worked out not too bad, but now they want to expand it,” into the more populated areas of the town, Bain said.
“Many, many are opposed to it.”
The turbine plan has been in the works for several years under other firms, but this most recent one comes from Samsung Renewable Energy and Pattern Development. Pattern’s project developer Jody Law said the companies heard at Tuesday’s meeting that people are opposed to the towers being located in urban areas.
“Where that boundary is is a broad preliminary study area, and that’s how it should be interpreted,” Law said. He said the study area has to be large because experts have to do various studies on such factors as wind patterns and impact on wildlife that require a larger area. Most of the turbines will probably be located on farmland and there are rules that no tower can be within 550 metres of a residence, he said. As for the boundary that reaches up to the shoreline east of Belle River, he expects no towers will be erected there. “Probably not, because we know obviously its a very sensitive thing, and not just socially but biologically, as well,” he said.
Once field studies are completed, final reports will be written and submitted to the Ontario government, probably early next year, along with a specific layout of where the towers will be located. Then it takes considerable time to evaluate the documents and potentially approve the proposal. The firms’ schedule predicts a 2016 construction start with the towers operating by 2017.
Law said the firms have already approached landowners and a lot have signed on with the project. “And they’re excited,” he said.
But Joanne Marcoux, who lives along County Road 22 about five minutes from Belle River, is perturbed about the possibility a neighbouring farmer has agreed to host a tower near her home.
“That would depreciate my house, if I ever wanted to sell it, some people don’t want to live with something like that,” she said. “I just think they’re getting too close to town.”
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