Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Niagara This Week Article - Residents demand more for turbines

Petition calls for 2km setbacks, full restitution of property value

When it comes to wind turbines, West Lincoln residents want more. Distance that is, between their homes and the massive, storeys-tall industrial wind turbines which are being proposed for their community.

John Dykstra and his wife Catherine Mitchell appeared before council Monday to talk about setbacks. Under provincial regulations, the minimum setback required for industrial wind turbines is 550 metres plus a maximum noise level of 40 decibels, a distance they argue is nowhere near enough.

“The computer used to establish Ontario’s wind turbine noise limits and safe setback distances was found to be flawed and inadequate,” Dykstra said during his presentation Monday. “Property owners who complained about noise and health issues and threatened legal action had the industrial wind turbine companies buy them out. These properties were then sold at a loss with a long list of disclaimers acknowledging that the wind turbine facilities may affect the buyer’s living environment.”

And so, Dykstra and Mitchell made two demands, backed by the signatures of more than 250 others in their rural community: a two kilometre setback from homes and 100 per cent restitution for property values.

The turbines proposed by Niagara Region Wind Corporation, which was approved under the province’s Green Energy Act to build a 230 megaWatt wind turbine farm in the West Lincoln area, are 179 metres high and, argued Mitchell, produce more low frequency sound. According to a Danish study, which Mitchell read from Monday, for a three MW turbine to remain within the 40 decibels noise levels, they would have to be installed at least 2,100 metres away from the nearest receptor.

“You can create any act that you want to, but you cannot take away the democratic rights of the people of this community,” Mitchell said of the Green Energy Act, which took decision-making powers away from local communities. “As taxpayers of the Township of West Lincoln, we are asking that our legal rights be respected and protected.”

Mitchell argued that governments, boards and agencies have a legal obligation in reviewing applications and making decisions to require and ensure that there will be no adverse effects and negative impacts on the health, safety, quality of life and well being of citizens, properties and the environment.

Turbines, said Dykstra, have been documented to have caused adverse effects — which by definition range from causing injury or damage to property or plant/animal life and causing harm or discomfort to people to causing health effects and impairing safety — in communities which already have turbines spinning power.

“Since no comprehensive, independent and peer-reviewed scientific study has been completed by the provincial government to determine that industrial wind turbine projects do not pose a risk to the community, the health of its citizens, property values and the rural environment, we are asking for a two kilometre set back from our residences and 100 per cent restitution of our property values,” Mitchell said in conclusion. “We want a legal guarantee that we are not assuming an unfair financial burden for this initiative.”

Mitchell and Dykstra requested the township forward their petition on to the province and, if need be, the Supreme Court. Ald. Sue-Ellen Merritt said she would support forwarding the petition through the proper channels, the ministries of environment and energy, but nothing more. Ald. Joanne Chechalk suggested the residents also forward their petition to upper levels of government on their own.

“I think it’s important that you send them on ... so that they hear from the grassroots community the discomfort that you have.”

Under new business, the town’s chief executive officer provided council with a brief update on a different wind turbine project — the 10 MW HAF Wind Energy Project proposed by IPC Energy and Vineland Power for the Caistor Centre area. Derrick Thomson noted that the proponents have met with township staff and would be appearing before council in the new year to provide an update.

Following the update, Merritt expressed her frustration over the process.

“People come here to tell us that we have a legal responsibility ... the control has really been taken out of our hands. I don’t like to say that, but it’s a reality,” she said. “It’s a frustrating process for us also.”

The petition was filed for information and staff are to report back on the request in a timely matter.