Shouting protesters try to block wind farm presentation
MILLBROOK - A company proposing a five-turbine wind farm straddling Cavan Monaghan Township and the City of Kawartha Lakes would consider terminating the project if a majority in the community is opposed, the head of the company said Tuesday.
“I’m flexible and I am willing to look at different options, and that (termination) is one of them, too,” said Martin Ince, president of M. K. Ince and Associates Ltd., the company behind the Stoneboat Community Wind Farm.
Ince made the comment in an interview with The Examiner following a raucous meeting of township council. More than 200 opponents of the project packed into the gymnasium and spilling into the main hallway of the former school that is now the township municipal building.
Mayor John Fallis used his gavel repeatedly in attempts to quiet the angry crowd, some of whom barred Ince’s way into the building when he arrived.
Ince had to be escorted into the building by Cavan Monaghan fire chief Bill Balfour.
“This man has a right to come inside,” Balfour told the crowd.
Despite an early warning from Fallis, the crowd interrupted and shouted Ince down during what was to have been a 10-minute presentation, but was opened to questions from the demonstrators for 30 minutes following questions from councillors.
During the 90-minute session, council passed Deputy Mayor Scott McFadden’s motion to transfer $500,000 from the township’s lottery reserve – its share of the Slots at Kawartha Downs revenue – to a legal reserve. It also requires that “staff be directed to assemble a legal team of experts to defend our municipality’s position against the construction of industrial wind turbines within the township of Cavan Monaghan.”
The motion also included a request to the City of Kawartha Lakes to match the commitment.
Fallis cast the only “no” vote. He wanted the legal fund limited to $100,000.
Both Cavan Monaghan and the City of Kawartha Lakes have passed motions declaring themselves unwilling hosts for wind turbines.
The crowd erupted into loud applause when the motion passed.
Ince described his presentation as an introduction to the project and said further community consultation is planned. A public meeting will be held in October.
He highlighted features that he said distinguish the Stoneboat proposal from other wind-farm projects, including a property value evaluation program that would provide compensation to landowners within a kilometre of the turbines if their property values decline; an annual fund of about $100,000 to be shared by homeowners within a kilometre of a turbine; making a share of project equity up to $5 million available for residents to invest in the project; and a pledge to turn the turbines off “at sensitive times” if noise becomes an issue.
McFadden challenged Ince’s pledge on the noise issue, asking whether the turbines would be turned off permanently if noise became a problem.
“We wouldn’t shut them off permanently,” Ince said.
“Then I don’t understand, if noise becomes an issue, and there are health issues, then how is your statement true? If someone has this syndrome it’s around the clock. They don’t turn it on and turn it off.”
“That’s something we would have to talk more about,” Ince said.
Councillors expressed frustration that they have no input into the approval process for wind turbines.
“The provincial government has stymied the municipal level and the public in many ways,” Coun. Lynda Todd told Ince. “But I can assure you we will have a lot to say.”
Residents questioned the validity of water and other studies to be conducted by people working for Ince’s company; called the revenue-sharing plan a bribe; urged Ince to “fold up your tent and leave”; and asked why he was pursuing the project in the face of clear opposition.
After the meeting, despite the crowd reception and the motion from council, Ince said he was not convinced the majority of the community is opposed to the project.
“This is just the start of the project,” he said. “We only announced this last week, and this was supposed to be the first introduction. I’m willing to hear what people say, but a lot of what I’m hearing is a repeat of what I have heard in the last little while.”
Stoneboat would be built under the same feed-in-tariff contract as the defunct Whispering Woods Wind Park just east of Millbrook. Ince took over the project from the former proponent.