Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ontario homeowners challenge wind farm with lawsuit - Ottawa Citizen Article

Sale of million-dollar home stalled, couple says, because of proposed wind farm next-door

By Lee Greenberg, The Ottawa Citizen January 18, 2012

TORONTO — The fight against wind power in Ontario is now formally pitting neighbour against neighbour following the announcement Wednesday by a couple that they are suing a nearby farmer who is proposing to host a half-dozen turbines on his land.

John and Sylvia Wiggins, 80 and 78, say they have been unable to sell their rural home in Stayner, about two hours’ drive northwest of Toronto, because of the proposed development. None of the allegations has been proven in court.

Their 1860 farmhouse, which sits on 48 acres of land and includes a horse stable, was listed at $1.15 million when it went on the market in June. It attracted intense interest for two weeks, until the proposed wind development was announced, says John Wiggins.

The wind farm would put three massive turbines, stretching 146 meters into the sky, as close as 550 meters to the Wiggins property. Three additional turbines would be placed within one kilometre of the house.

Real estate agents are obliged to disclose the proposed changes to perspective buyers.

The news killed all interest in the sale of his home, he says.

“Everyone is in a holding pattern,” says Wiggins’s real estate agent, Anita Lauer. ”They’re going to wait and see what happens.”

Wiggins says he feels he has “no choice” but to include Beattie Brothers Farms Limited, the landowners involved in the new project, in his $3.5-million lawsuit.

“We have a huge investment and certainly going into retirement we depend on that investment,” he said at a Toronto press conference Wednesday. “And all of a sudden we were losing a great share of that investment … Inasmuch as the landowner made the agreement with the wind turbine company, we feel they’re just as responsible. They knew, both parties knew at the time they made that agreement, that it would be detrimental to any property nearby, ours being the closest.”

Les Beattie, a cash crop farmer who owns the land in question, denies that the turbines have a big effect on rural property values.

“Any of the places where they’ve put them up it has not shown a devalue to the farms,” he said in an interview. “That’s what the bankers tell us. If there were some beside us, it wouldn’t affect our land value.”

The Wigginses bought their Stayner home, in an increasingly popular area with Toronto cottagers, in 2006.

The two families don’t know each other, according to Beattie.

The Wiggins case is one of roughly a dozen challenges to Ontario’s Green Energy Act. Many are led by lawyer Eric Gillespie with the involvement of Wind Concerns Ontario.

So far, the challenges have failed.

Gillespie says this latest case will be different because it will focus on property values, rather than the adverse health effects he says are caused by wind turbines.

He says it is also the first time a landowner has been named in such a civil suit.

The Toronto lawyer acknowledges the suit could have a chilling impact on landowners looking to strike lease arrangements with wind developers.

“It is certainly possible that it may,” he said. “It will be a matter of time before we know.”