CLEARVIEW TWP. – Challengers to the province’s decision to go ahead with the construction of eight 500-foot wind turbines in Clearview Township filled the Collingwood Curling hall during the Environmental Review Tribunal’s pre-hearing on Tuesday.
Approval for the project by wpd Canada was given in February by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC). The turbines are to be erected in near County Road 91, with at least two of the turbines situated within the flight path for the Collingwood Regional Airport.
Six appeals have been filed against the motion including Collingwood, Clearview Township, the County of Simcoe, and private citizens, John Wiggins, Kevin and Gail Elwood and the Preserve Clearview citizen’s group.
The appeals brought forward argue that the licence to construct should be withdrawn citing a danger to human life with the turbines interfering with both the Collingwood Airport and a small aerodrome operated by the Elwoods. Environmental concerns were brought forward citing concerns for the Stayner wetlands and spawning grounds for rainbow trout and the impact of wildlife in the area.
The hearing Tuesday was to determine participant and presenter status to others who wanted to take part in the hearing.
The Collingwood Flying Club represented by George Daniels, the Ontario Landowners Association represented by Elizabeth Marshall, the Canadian Owner and Pilots Association (COPA), Susan Richardson and private landowners Mandy and Stephen Bridson were all granted permission to make a submission.
George Daniels of the Collingwood Flying Club voiced one of his concerns to the hearing directors identifying that medical flights coming in and out of Collingwood Airport will become more dangerous as the flights will have to “vector off of the proposed site of these massive structures which coupled with the prevailing winds off of Georgian Bay makes the pilots very nervous.”
The hearings will begin May 16 and comprises of deputations, teleconferences and a site visit. The hearing is expected to run approximately three weeks.
A final decision will be issued Aug.19.
Seeing people fill the meeting area of the curling club gave Collingwood councillor Mike Edwards a small sense of optimism that the hearing might have an impact on the MOECC’s decision.
“Just seeing the number of people out giving their support and the number of people who want participant status all for different reasons, of course,” said Edwards, who is also chair to the Collingwood Airport Board. “I think that it also shows the importance of the airport to our region, with the county partnering with our appeal; it shows how significant our airport is as a part of Simcoe County.”
Petition may be a the last push against the turbines
For Betty Schneider, the petition she has online at Change.org is a case of David and Goliath.
Schneider and members of her community in Clearview Township have been fighting wpd Canada and the wind turbines for more than seven years, including taking them to court in 2012 citing plunging land values for area properties.
Schneider and her co-complainants were told they were pre-mature in their charges and that they should bring their case back to court once the turbines were up.
“We have been fighting turbines for about seven years and when the announcement came over that the government wouldn’t allow the township to argue their case and awarded the decision to wpd, I thought, oh my gosh, I was just devastated,” said Schneider. “We have been fighting all this time and now they are going to be there.”
“Then you sit back take a breath and then go back to Custer’s last stand, is, I guess, what you would call it.”
With over 300 signatures in about two weeks, the petition is gaining momentum, however, Schneider admits putting the petition online is slower because a lot of people may not be used to adding their voice that way.
“We’ve had other petitions over the years with hundreds of names down, scratches on a paper, but we find they don’t really send a message.” said Schneider. “But I know our lawyer said that they don’t have specific criteria that they (The Tribunal members) are going to use, but they are getting the message that people are signing the petition.”
The service hosting the petition sends the results to the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) so, as Schneider says, they know there is rumbling from the community.
“And we would like the rumbling to be a little louder,” said Schneider.
Moving onto a farm 25 years ago with her family, Schneider knows how tight the agricultural community is, but she has also seen acres lost to development and believes that the turbines will not serve the purpose in the long term.
“My argument today is not that we are going to see turbines, or that this is a NIMBY protest, it is the fact that if wpd puts in eight turbines in Clearview township they are not going to stop at eight.”
She worries that the area will see more because she suggests with the millions of dollars needed for the infrastructure, it is too much money just for the initial eight, and believes that the area will experience the same circumstance as Shelbourne, which now supports more than 150 wind turbines.
If you would like to sign Schneider’s petition, go online to change.org.