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$14 million lawsuit claims wind project will have negative impact on property values at South Marysburgh

A $14 million lawsuit has been launched by 20  plaintiffs against WPD Canada and 20 participating landowners of the White Pines wind project.  They claim the 29-turbine development will have a negative impact on property values.

Kevin Surette, manager of communications, said WPD will provide studies showing turbines won’t affect real estate values. WPD is working with 30 landowners but not all of them were named in the lawsuit.

The following report by Gary Mooney, for the County Coalition for Safe and Appropriate Green Energy (CCSAGE).

A $14-million civil lawsuit has been filed by 20 Prince Edward County families against wpd Canada and 20 participating landowners in respect of the White Pines wind project.  It claims that this 29-turbine development will have a negative impact on their property values.

This lawsuit is similar to two lawsuits launched earlier this year in respect of wpd Canada’s 8-turbine Fairview project in Clearview Township.  Twenty-one families are suing the developer and the two participating landowners for $17 million.

Wpd Canada is a subsidiary of wpd GMBH, a German-based wind energy developer with more than 200 small wind projects (average seven turbines) now in operation worldwide. If completed, the White Pines project would be its third largest installation.

The White Pines project will impact hundreds of properties in South Marysburgh and eastern Athol township, including vacant building lots where the owner may intend to build a home in the future.

The Green Energy Act provides a means for addressing concerns about adverse effects on human health and the natural environment.  However, it doesn’t deal with concerns of neighbouring property owners about loss of market value of what may be the family’s major financial asset. So civil action is the only recourse.

Eric Gillespie, the plaintiffs’ lawyer for all of these actions, was quoted earlier as saying: “The landowners who signed contracts to host wind turbines on their lands are being held liable, as well as the wind developers. These claims are based on established legal principles and there appears to be precedent for these claims in Ontario.”

This lawsuit will be costly for the plaintiff families, each of which may have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to pursue this action.

It will be disruptive and potentially costly for the defendant landowners.  Wpd Canada has been quoted as saying  that it will “assume all of the risks associated with the project”. In addition to legal costs and potential damage awards, there is the possibility of injunctions, delays in construction, liens, inability to mortgage and inability to sell.

In addition, the defendant landowners who are resident in the County (some are not) will have to deal with strong community disapproval of their participation, as evidenced by a recent plebiscite in South Marysburgh wherein 90 per cent voted ‘NO’ to wind turbines.

While the major concern of neighbouring property owners is reductions in property values that persist over time, the more immediate concern is the ability to sell at all.  Some property owners and some real estate agents are reporting that there is virtually no interest by potential home buyers in a property in South Marysburgh.

Quick catch up on wind turbine developments over the past month here: http://wp.me/p1M8CZ-sx .

There’s an excellent CBC News report published on October 1, 2011 titled Ontario wind power bringing down property values available at http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2011/09/30/ontario-wind-power-property-values.html

For more information on the County lawsuit, see the article in the Intelligencer at http://www.intelligencer.ca/2012/08/07/wind-concerns-power-lawsuit .

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  1. Dayton Johnson says:

    I’m pretty sure Barb Proctor reads CountyLive at least occasionally but I would suggest filling her email account at bproctor@pecounty.on.ca could further help get her attention.I thought the voters of South Marysburgh made it clear to Ms.Proctor but she continues to stubbornly stick to her own agenda and flip-flop much like our previous councillor Alyea.Could be there is a money trail…could be there’s an outside interest.She’s not gaining any support by fence sitting.Her field of expertise is in the health field and could be politics is not her game after all. The next municipal election will tell the tale. I think her press statements are a bit exaggerated…I’ve lived here in SM all my life and I don’t know any 90 year olds lol

  2. Jack says:

    Shame on you Barb Proctor. Do the job you were elected to do. Who decided that Slik was an authority on anything. If you have ever attended previous council and listened to her childish ramblings . Quotes from her would be the last thing you would print. Plaintiffs, a front man is needed. Fight fire with fire. If the press wants to print sob stories . Give them some!!

  3. Mark says:

    Ditto David. Proctor is flipping all over the place. The residents of South Marysburgh would have no idea where she really stands on the issue. Doesn’t sound like she is with the 90% that voted against the industry! And spare me the BS that just because someone is in their 90’s they should be exempt from answering to the harm they are inflicting on their heighbours. She seems surprised and shocked that a lawsuit has been filed. Where on earth has she been, not in her ward I guess.

  4. Doris Lane says:

    David, I think we all knew why the DND was out there, even whne they claimed differently. I had a long discussion with the DND at the Picton Fair and I told them I did not believe theie. made up story.
    Treat had pictures taken of the paths DND made through the Gildead area and destruction of some of the property,
    A gentleman came up to me at the fair and told about going out there after bombs were dropped and bringing home soveniers which he still uses for book ends

    As for Councillor Proctor she is sitting on the fence like most councillors do. Want a direct answer speak to Councillor Robert Quaiff

    Now do you believe for a minute that the people who have rented their land are doing so because they think wind is the way to go. I would think it is because are a cash cow.

  5. David Norman says:

    Up until yesterday I was happy to calmly/strategically entertain and engage all opinions and ideological representations regarding Industrial Wind Turbine developments in PEC. However, the Aug. 16/12 edition of the County Weekly News published an article written by Nicole Kleinsteuber in which she quoted South Marysburgh councillor, Barbara Proctor as stating in relation to the defendants being served, “some of the people being served are in their 90s or they’re just received their RRSPs and they’re trying to go about their daily activities. Now they have this lawsuit hanging over their head. I’m disturbed about this tactic”. This is a despicable disingenuous comment which taints and disparages the motives of the 27 plaintiff landowners who are rightfully concerned about the “negligence, nuisance, trespass, decreased property values and aggravated and mental distress” that the WPD Industrial Wind Turbine development represents. Proctor goes on to try and justify this comment by stating “this issue has lost the human element. We are not looking at people we are looking at an issue”. That this lawsuit takes the polarization of this issue to a whole other level”. Well duh! This is a completely distorted self serving logic since this “human element” has been the issue from the onset of the Green Energy Act which aristocratically dismissed the concerns and legislative options of folk who questioned the effects that Industrial Wind Turbine developments would have on their lives. Proctor’s sympathies and logic in this regard are clearly one sided. This is reminiscent of the motherhood entreaties of the County Sustainability Group in regards to their premise of endorsing this Industrial Wind Turbine development because of concern for the future of their “children and grandchildren.

    Factoid: All stakeholder submissions regarding Industrial Wind Turbine development in PEC by the County Sustainabilty Group to County Council have been “motioned for inclusion” by Proctor.

    I’m reminded of Proctor’s previous attempts to distort the issue when she erroneously claimed that the Department of Nation Defence work at Ostrander Point was “about safety and would have been done regardless” (see http://www.countylive.ca/?p=17386). In a comment on this blog, Treat Hull put the record straight with the following statement:
    “Saturday, September 10th, 2011 at 12:00 pm
    With all due respect, Councillor Proctor may not have had the correspondence between the DND and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources available to her when she made her comments.
    Emails released the DND which were sent to the Ontario MNR to explain the project and clarify permit requirements state that “UXO survey and clearance activities will be conducted in response to development/construction projects in Prince Edward County”.
    The chronology of events based publicly-available information is;
    2006. Gilead starts wind monitoring at Ostrander Point.
    January 2008. Gilead holds first public open house
    August 2008. Gilead holds second public open house
    September 2008. Nick Sanders (DND) emails Christine Brown (MNR) to ask if any permits are required for DND’s proposed unexploded ordinance work at Ostrander Point. The only justification for the ordinance sweep was “UXO survey and clearance activities will be conducted in response to development/construction projects in Prince Edward County”.
    March 2011. DND publishes Draft Screening Report which includes above email correspondence, along with the disclosure that the only public consultation carried out was with Gilead: “The wind farm proponent, Gilead, was consulted to determine footprint of the windfarm and to and to coordinate respective project activities”.”

    Now, I’m mad as hell,
    David Norman, Rogue Primate of Bloomfield

  6. Chris Keen says:

    Here’s some detailed information provided by CCSAGE on steps you can take to let wpd know that you are opposed to their IWT development.

    Time is of the essence!

    http://ccsage.wordpress.com/2012/08/17/help-stop-wpds-white-pines-project/

  7. David Norman says:

    This lawsuit may in fact prove unnecessary as the McGuinty government seems to be caught between a rock and an Industrial Wind Turbine?

    To wit, the final documents for Version 2 of the FIT Program, published Aug. 10/12 by the Ontario Power Authority (http://fit.powerauthority.on.ca/august-10-2012-final-fit-20-program-documents-posted), provides the following legal caveat:
    “Anyone interested in the FIT Program may review the posted documents and prepare themselves for the opening of the Application Period but shall be solely responsible for all costs, expenses and liabilities incurred in this regard and the OPA assumes no responsibility or liability, whether or not the Application Period is opened or not opened and whether or not the FIT Program is suspended, revoked, amended or revised. Under no circumstances whatsoever shall the OPA be liable for any claims for compensation or damages, including any indirect, punitive or consequential damages associated with the preparation of an application in anticipation of the opening of the Application Period.”

    This takes care of all new FIT contracts, but what to do with the thousand plus contracts for both existing and proposed Industrial Wind Turbine developments that are now under the potential legal pale of Health Canada’s, Wind Turbine Noise and Health research study, to be completed in 2014? While a moratorium on the build of proposed developments already contracted is possible however fraught with the inevitable lawsuits, the shutting down of existing developments seems out of the question and incredibly expensive from a legal contractual standpoint. The answer to this problem is actually quite simple. Give back some of the Municipal control usurped by the Green Energy Act. Short of allowing Municipalities to approve or disapprove IWT developments, allowing them to exercise certain bylaws concerning, building codes, noise, zoning etc. would and could shut down this industry. Since this industry is virtually self regulating, and most IWT development companies have demonstrated a poor record of answering complaints, particularly concerning noise, audible and infrasound, I would hazard a guess that none could hold up to the scrutiny of proclaimed compliance in this regard. In fact, I’m sure the Provincial Government of Ontario is aware that if they were to critically review the “self regulating” reports of compliance by IWT development companies they would find most if not all are not accurate. This would serve to let the Provincial Government off the hook legally and depending on their subsequent PR strategy, could mitigate unfavorable political perceptions in “rural” ridings.

  8. Doris Lane says:

    Good article Chris. Looks like people are getting fed up with Dalton. I see where Greg Sorbara, MPP for Vaughan has resigned and there is a by election there as well as Kitchener-Waterloo. Sobara has propety in the Northport Area he has fixed up an old house and barn–they look great.
    Greg ran against Dalton for leader of the party. Maybe he just wants to retire to quiet PEC. A couple of sources say there is a lot of discussion at Queen’s Park these days

  9. Doris Lane says:

    It is an excellent presentation too bad there isn’t some way that more people coule see it
    I hope the realestate companies are making it available in Kitchener-Waterloo and Vaughan where there are by elections in which Dalton is hoping to get his majority government.
    If he does there goes our chances of any good changes in Ontario

  10. Gail Forcht says:

    Thanks to both of you for the correction. Worth the look!

  11. David Norman says:

    Chris, you’re always a minute or so ahead of me!

  12. David Norman says:

    Gail’s link as posted is incorrect. It is actually http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAneQD8mxPM

  13. Chris Keen says:

    Here’s the correct link to the video Ms. Forcht mentions:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAneQD8mxPM

    Definitely worth watching!

  14. Gail Forcht says:

    http://youtu.be/yAneQD8mxPM

    This video is from experience with Turbines in the St. Thomas and London areas. Worth a look and the insight from what they are experiencing.

  15. Gary Mooney says:

    Not being a lawwyer and not knowing much about this lawsuit, I can still make a few comments from general knowledge.

    While this project is legal thanks to provincial legislation, the developer and participating landowners are not protected from damages that they may inflictt on neighbors.

    Even if the plaintiffs win their case, the project may be built, but they would be compensated for damages incurred.

    There is a more extreme scenario where the plaintiffs seek an injunction to prevent the project from being built, appropriate in a situation where money damages don’t provide appropriate compensation. But this is a higher stakes game, with a lesser chance of success and a greater risk of substantial damages being awarded to the defendants.

  16. Mark says:

    Has anyone heard a whisper from our Council in the last few months in regards to the industrialization of the south shore and South Marysburgh? I know that Councillor Proctor came forward after the local vote but has the council of the whole done anything?

  17. Doris Lane says:

    Paul–can’t really answer your question but if a company gets a judgement against them it is unlikely that they could
    go ahead but it would all depend on what the judge said in his judgement. This case should take a fair amount of time in the courts and then there is always the chance of an appeal by the defendants or a counter suit.
    Paul I would like you to call these monster things IWT’s not windmills. Windmills are usually not 40 stories high like these IWTs will be

  18. Paul Cole says:

    This is likely a silly question, I don’t know very much about the windmill issue, But lets say said lawsuit is allowed and the Judge rules that 14 million be awarded for negative impact on property values and allows a period of time for payment. Would that decision give the windmill builder the right to go ahead and build ?

  19. Chris Keen says:

    @ Richard Parks

    a) Irrelevant – we don’t know, at this point, who has been named in the lawsuit – the plaintiffs’ lawyer has a reason for including those who have been named, and excluding others. This does not mean that those who have been excluded cannot be sued at a later date.

    b) No law has been broken and you know this. Stop being disingenuous. This lawsuit is about the possible loss of the value of the plaintiffs’ properties in an area where IWTs may be or are erected.

    The fact that you live in an area where IWTs cannot be erected is a blessing for you. You will not have to decide if you should spend your precious resources to defend the value of your property.

    You might show a little more humanity for those who do. This is NOT a pigs and cows issue and you know it.

  20. Richard Parks says:

    Lots of words , no real answers to a) or b).
    well, maybe an answer to b) (they broke the ‘old’ laws)

    ” while one owns land for their own use it is strongly recognized that they do not have the right to adversely
    affect the lives of others”

    we can agree on that, lol

  21. Ken Globe says:

    Mark: From what I’ve gleaned over the past few years, the neighbors never had a problem with the entertainment in the former barn. That is, until they tried for permits to put in a hotel B&B style building. That’s when the crap started hitting the fan. Guess they didn’t want the competition for the rooms.

  22. Mark says:

    I don’t think Industrial Turbines are part of farming. Lol

    Interesting that if a farmer turns a barn into an entertainment facility they are challenged on noise and that is viewed by a few as right. If a farmer turns a hay field into an industrial zone and inflicts numerous harms including noise on his or her neighbour it’s all good!
    I like logic but I am really missing it here.

  23. Jim says:

    I believe the landowners to get contracts should countersue as they are going to loose mega bucks

  24. virginia says:

    @ Elizabeth Globe. You are entirely correct. There is also something called “Right to Farm Legislation.” This prevents non farming and/or litigious neighbours,etc. from interfering with farming. And we should all be thankful for that.

  25. Elizabeth Globe says:

    David, your question intrigued me, so I looked up the definition of farm in the County zoning by-laws and the zones in which these are permitted.
    3.77 FARM
    Shall mean any farming or agricultural use and including but not limited to apiaries; aviaries; berry or bush crops; breeding, raising of cattle, sheep goats or swine; commercial greenhouses; hatching, raising and marketing of
    chickens, turkeys or other fowl or game birds, fish hatchery;lands used for grazing, field crops; growing, raising, picking, treating and storing of vegetable or fruit produce grown on the lands; mushroom farms; nurseries; sod farms; orchards; tree crops; market gardening; wood lots inclusive of a maple sugar bush; and such other uses or enterprises as are customarily carried on in the field of general agriculture. “Farm” shall include buildings and structures, such as barns and silos, which are incidental to the operation of the farm.
    Farms are allowed in RU1, RU2 & RU3 zones. So unfortunately within the scenario you presented, you would have no recourse should your hypothetical neighbour change from Horses to Pigs.
    Industrial Wind Turbines are a different issue and cannot be compared to Livestock on appropriately zoned properties.

  26. Jack says:

    @Richard, (a) I feel certain that the lawsuit is meant to eliminate turbines , not to harm as many neigbors as possible. (b)if municipal bylaws as they previously existed were in effect, yes they are breaking the law sadly under present conditions the courts will have to answer that question. (c) You can sue anybody for anything, unfortunatley going to court is sometimes the only avenue available to people.

  27. Gary Mooney says:

    Jack, i haven’t been able to obtain a copy of the Intell article or contact Nicole K., so if you could scan it and send to sue@countylive.ca, she’ll forward it to me. Many thanks.

  28. Gary Mooney says:

    Good question, Richard.

    In the situation that you describe, the issue would be dealt with by municipal zoning rules/bylaws. The homowner could make a deputation to Council. If they didn’t like the decision, they could appeal to the OMB.

    Not so for wind turbines, thanks to the GEA and its regulations. So the homeowner has only one recourse, and that is civil litigation.

  29. David Norman says:

    @ Richard… your comment fascinated me and inspired some interesting notions, particularly in reference to “c) if this suit is successful, can we sue farmers/landowners who change from keeping 50 Horses to keeping 50 Hogs?” I envisioned a scenario where from my front porch I look at my neighbor’s property and see a herd of 50 horses grazing in a field. It’s a magnificent sight as perceptually/aesthetically I find horses pleasing to look at (just noticed my unintentional pun in “neigh-bors”). So I decide to put my place up for sale. I most certainly would draw attention to the sight of the horses as a selling feature. But coincidentally my neighbor swaps their horses for 50 hogs who now occupy the field. As an olfactory aside, in my life experience I have had occasion to compare the smell of pig manure to that of horses. I’m accepting/indifferent to that of horses, but find that of pigs quite offensive. In my mind my neighbor’s property has now changed from a horse ranch to a pig farm and as such will detract from the value/buyer interest in my property. It is indeed about generally accepted perception, in my example about a subtlety in the distinction of one creature over another… and in the case of Industrial Wind Turbines a gigantic fetish of a delusional ideology. Is this simply a matter of scale?

  30. Mark says:

    I believe that’s what the law suit is all about. The judge will determine if the law was broken. While one owns land for their use it is strongly recognized that they do not have the right to adversely affect the lives of others. Constructing a monster Industrial Wind Turbine next to your neighbour and subjecting them to the fallout from that is slightly more significant than changing form horses to hogs! I am sure you can recognize that certain activities by neighbours can affect others.

  31. Richard Parks says:

    just wondering:
    a) why did they leave 10 landowners out?
    b) did the 20 landowners who are named in the suit “break” the law?
    c) if this suit is successful, can we sue farmers/landowners
    who change from keeping 50 Horses to keeping 50 Hogs?

  32. David Norman says:

    This, and other related lawsuits will provide much inspiration for debate over, and research into, environmental policy development by our non-representational “democratic” government. Just thought of a title for my upcoming PhD thesis; “Wind Turbine Ghettos and the Clean Green Pogroms”… any thoughts?

  33. Jack says:

    @Gary. The article was written by Nicole Kleinsteuber. * Wind suit blowing community apart : councillor*. Page 2 Thursday Aug 9 bottom right corner. You may be able to find it on the Intelligencer web site if not I can scan it and forward it to you..

  34. Marnie says:

    Mark, check the archives on the Intell website. You may find the article there.

  35. Mark says:

    I tried to locate the article but was unsucessful. I thought it could really track the trail.

  36. Gary Mooney says:

    Jack, can you provide a link to the story that quoted Lori Slik on property values in S. Marysburgh?

  37. Jo Anne Slaven says:

    Chris, did you spot the error on the first page in the right-hand column? “…almost 45% of the increase is due payments to OPG to maintaining their aging nuclear plants.”

    I think they meant “…almost 45% of the increase is due ***to*** payments to OPG ***for*** maintaining their aging nuclear plants.”

    I sure hope they can weld better than they can write.

  38. Chris Keen says:

    Jack: I almost choked on my corn flakes when I read your post this morning! I’ve always found realtors to be very affable folks but I didn’t know some of them were comediennes! Certainly any realtor I’ve talked to can’t get buyers into their car if they suggest looking at property in South Marysburgh. So,if you do switch, make sure you get those assurances in writing!

    On the wpd front, they have distributed today, a generic flyer which they have purchased from a third party – perhaps the Pembina Institute or WEA. In the bottom third, on the back side, they have inserted their own message and details. I was pleased to read there that wpd supports “intelligent use of the planets (sic) resources”. With the first of what promises to be many lawsuits on their hands, I guess they really won’t be able to hire an editor now!!

  39. Mark says:

    Follow the $$$ trail Jack. Just follow the trail and it will all make sense.

  40. Jack says:

    NEWS FLASH, Belleville Intelligencer Thursday Aug 9, Lori Slik local realtor is quoted as saying that property values are not affected, and in fact there is hardly any propety for sale. According to her the one property she did sell ,she sold it for a higher price then was expected. I am going to have my realtor give her a call and find out her secret. Perhaps she can hold a seminar for the rest of the agents out there.

  41. David Norman says:

    As Eddy Grant sang:

    Oh Lord, we gonna rock down to Electric Avenue
    And then we’ll take it higher
    Oh we gonna rock down to Electric Avenue
    And then we’ll take it higher

    Who is to blame in one country?
    Never can get to the one
    Dealin’ in multiplication
    And they still can’t feed everyone

    Oh no, we gonna rock down to Electric Avenue
    And then we’ll take it higher
    Oh no, we gonna rock down to Electric Avenue
    And then we’ll take it higher

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtPk5IUbdH0

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