"The once-placid farming community is now more urban than ever," he said. "To infer that the island is a pristine piece of unique natural landscape is totally misleading." In response to a question from tribunal member Robert Wright, Wellbanks said he described himself as a "stakeholder" because he had signed an agreement with Windlectric and would financially benefit for allowing two wind turbines to be located on his property.
BATH – The residents of Amherst Island are not uniform in their opposition to a proposed wind energy project, an Environmental Review Tribunal hearing heard Wednesday morning.
Island resident Eric Wellbanks, who spoke on behalf of the group Citizens of Amherst Island for Renewable Energy, said the organization is supported by more than 120 “legitimate members” and “scores of supporters” who are islanders or directly associated with the island.
All of the organization’s seven executive members are stakeholders in the project, Wellbanks said.
“We have been the perpetual and sole voice for the proponents,” he said. “CAIRE is the diametric opposite of Nimbyism.”
The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change gave the Amherst Island wind project approval in August, subject to more than two dozen conditions.
Windlectric Inc.’s Amherst Island Wind Energy Project is to include up to 26 wind turbine generators and one substation transformer.
The conditional approval is being challenged by the Association to Protect Amherst Island.
Wellbanks said his family has lived on the island for five generations and he and his wife moved back permanently more than 15 years ago. He rejected the argument that the island was a pristine, natural environment and said it has been changed dramatically since it was first deforested in the 18th century for agriculture. Much of the housing, including his own home, on the island has been built along the shore.
“The once-placid farming community is now more urban than ever,” he said. “To infer that the island is a pristine piece of unique natural landscape is totally misleading.”
In response to a question from tribunal member Robert Wright, Wellbanks said he described himself as a “stakeholder” because he had signed an agreement with Windlectric and would financially benefit for allowing two wind turbines to be located on his property.
“Had I not participated in the financial benefits or whatever, I would have been every bit in favour of the project,” he said.
Wellbanks said he is satisfied that Windlectic has been responsible in its approach to the project and has shown a willingness to relocate parts of the project if asked to do so by the residents.
The development, he said, would create a more vibrant island community, provide much-needed economic development and provide a cleaner environment and protection for wildlife. Wellbanks said the project is something all island resident should support.
“Every person here will benefit from that. We need new roads, we need a better ferry service, we need all of these things. That’s a common thing to all of us and we should all embrace those things equally and support each other in trying to get that,” he said.
Wellbanks said the project would provide about $750,000 in benefits to the island.
“We want to pay our own way. This will allow us to do that and then some,” he said.
In his questioning, APAI’s lawyer, Eric Gillespie, suggested to Wellbanks that there was more to consider about the project than money.
“If financial benefit would cause people to be supportive of the project, then everybody should be, correct?” Gillespie asked.
“I’ll leave that up to them,” Wellbanks replied. “Whether they support it or not, it’s a reality.”
“But we know they are not, correct?” Gillesie said.
“You make your own assumptions, sir,” Wellbanks replied.
The tribunal has hearings scheduled for Thursday and Friday in Toronto. Several other days this month have been set aside if needed.
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