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Hall overflowed with citizens angry over Invenergys wind farm plans

by David Meyer

BELWOOD - Citizens from the area appeared to be furious while attending a wind turbine meeting here on March 9, but in the end they let their manners stifle their anger - just a little.

Over 500 people packed the Belwood Hall over the course of three hours, and many of them were furious with In­ven­ergy Wind Canada’s proposal for a wind farm with be­tween 25 to 35 turbines. They carried signs with slogans like “Farm­ers Feed Cities Not Power Them.”

The meeting was held using an open house format, which infuriated a number of resi­dents who wanted to ask ques­tions and have the entire hall hear responses.

At one point, Invenergy spokesman Andrew Flanagan took the stage to take questions, but that lasted only a few minutes with little or no exchange between the audience and him, mainly because he was drowned out.

One resident yelled of the venue, “This is not the place for it. We might as well meet in a well.”

Another was furious at an area farmer who may have signed on to house a turbine on his property. “You sold me out,” the man charged. “As my neighbour, you stabbed me in the back.” Another man was asked if he had a contract for a turbine on his farm, and refused to answer.

Another man yelled the issue is “15 farmers against the community,” and, “Your money is no good at the store.”

There were others, though, who simply came to obtain in­formation. Delman Cardy lives in the area of the proposed turbines, but said only one of his neighbours signed a lease agreement.

“These windmills don’t pay for themselves,” he opined. “We’ve got enough wind to pro­duce 15% of that they need.” Still, he, like many others, was concerned about property values.

While all the yelling was going on, hundreds more people were lined up outside the door three and four wide, all the way down the street to the church.

Development manager James Murphy said in an interview it was “quite a turnout.” He said he had expected it, because he had met earlier in the week with the mayors of Centre Wellington and East Garafraxa, and they suggested there would be a lot of people there.

Murphy said the company would be paid 13.5 cents per kW hour (kilowatt hour), and the turbines would not be operating at capacity all the time. He said he hoped for a 30% use of the wind. He added the company cannot just come in and damage local roads.

“We enter into a user agreement with the municipality and the county,” he said, noting that a similar agreement in Chatham-Kent has worked well. The base condition of the roads will be established, and his company will have to ensure they are returned to that quality.

Roads running from the highways to the turbines will be 15 feet wide and be used by maintenance people and the landowner.

Murphy said there is a “long consultation process” with the provincial government, and “We have to complete a lot of studies.”

He added the Ministry of the Environment will make the final decision. It has a six month time frame to make a decision after all the studies are submitted.

Murphy noted the provincial Liberal government wants such projects, and said of his company’s proposal, “I don’t expect to lose it.”

When asked what economic benefits the turbines would provide, Murphy promised to email his projections. They arrived and, for the Raleigh Wind Energy Centre, they are

- Once operational the wind farm will require approxi­mately eight full time operation and maintenance staff and some secondary staff.

- During the construction phase the labor force is ex­pec­ted to peak at approximately 150 people. Based on previous projects, over half of the labor will be hired locally.

- Local construction con­tracts are anticipated to have a value between $25- to $35-mil­lion.

- Property taxes are ex­pected to add $150,000 to $250,000 annually to muni­cipal coffers while placing a minimal demand on municipal services.

- Option and lease payments to landowners during the 20-year term of the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) contract are forecast to be more than $15-million.

Murphy added that the re­newable energy permit Inven­ergy is seeking sets operating conditions, and the company must either meet them or repair the machinery.

Family divided

A number of residents had opinions on the project.

For Michelle McFadden, the idea was “to try to keep an open mind. If this project is going to go through, I want the best possible scenario.”

She added she does not want the project, but, if it arrives, “They have to make it work.”

Marianne Bultena moved to Belwood almost 20 years ago, and as an amateur photog­ra­pher, she estimated she has taken over10,000 photos of the area.

She said she is opposed to the turbines for health reasons, because they will decrease prop­erty values, and, “Where are the owls going to go?”

But Josh Frank and his half sister Gwendolyn Bultena, Mary­anne’s daughter, were on opposite sides of the fence.

Josh Frank said, “I just moved out of Belwood, but my father’s farm is here. He’s strongly opposed.

“I’ve given him all the information,” he added.

Frank said of the turbines, “I like them. Is it a great thing? There needs to be more study.”

But Gwendolyn Bultena said, “The entire community should agree on it.”

She also wanted to know if people are “100% sure about the health” of people living near the turbines.

“Are they going to guar­an­tee people get their property values back? she asked.

But Frank pointed out there is a wind turbine on the 5th Line already, and, “It’s been there a long time.

Belwood resident Sonia Day said in an interview the meetings are not finished. She said she hopes to have plans in place soon for a meeting at Centre Wellington District High School on March 25.

Day said she attended the meeting in Marsville, too, and several hundred people attended that one. She said she was told a few years ago there was a similar meeting and only ten people were there.

Neil Perrett came to the Belwood meeting armed with a three page statement for the Invenergy officials. He opened it by stating “I support green energy and hope that energy from wind farming can be green. His definition of green is “that this energy doesn’t harm the environment and in that sense is good for the environment.

But, he said, no wind farm should be located near an existing residential community, and also that they “never be located next to, near, or withing conservation areas, parks or natural migration areas. Many people who visit and cherish these areas will resent the invasive green industry. They will question the green nature of an industry that threatens other green environments.”

There were sheets for com­ments being handed out. Kath­rine Myrans said, “We had 405 people sign in on March 9 and 172 sign in on March 10. Certainly more people than that attended both meetings but we could not force people to sign in.

In Belwood, residents used all the prepared sheets and, because she had run out, she provided blank paper to comment.

 

Vol 43 Issue 12

 
 

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