By Nicole Kleinsteuber
People against the plan to build industrial wind turbines along Prince Edward County’s south shore made up a large number of the audience at Thursday night’s town hall in Picton.
Among the 200 in attendance were residents from Wolfe Island, Amherst Island and Kingston. The three-hour meeting was organized and hosted as a public town hall by Prince Edward Hastings MPP Todd Smith at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. During his introduction Smith said divisiveness between community members and the demand for public consultation led him to host the meeting.
“One of the damn shames that the government has done to us, is industrial wind developments have gotten between me and my neighbours,” said a resident from South Bay late in the public comment period.
“This was an opportunity for anyone on either side to take the stage and speak publicly on the issue,” said Smith. “It seemed like many of the people who spoke first were people who are not real happy about the idea of having wind turbines on the south shore.”
There were a few wind supporters present but only one made himself known to the crowd.
“I feel quite put out tonight,” said Doug Bradshaw from Prince Edward County, as he faced the heavy anti-wind crowd. “I was coming here tonight expecting to sign a petition in favour of windmills and there’s all these petitions for people who are against windmills. Well I’m for the windmills.”
Hissing, booing and shouting erupted from the crowd.
Organizers asked the audience to quiet down and reminded them the meeting is about respect.
“We’ve got 86 windmills on Wolfe Island and the only complaint I hear is from people in New York saying windmills are blocking the sun,” said Bradshaw.
“Wrong! We’re from Wolfe Island,” called out Sarah McDermott and Janet White two residents from Wolfe Island.
“I’ve been to Wolfe Island, I’ve looked at them (wind turbines) and they’re close to farm houses. The farmers don’t seem to be complaining,” said Bradshaw.
“Try living near them. It’s really hard,” said McDermott.
“I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in about three years since the project went up,” said McDermott. “There are a lot of people who are discontented with the way the process went with no public input.”
McDermott said they were ignored and took their council to court. She said they felt pushed over with promises of recreating habitats.
“It has been destructive for our community and destructive to a lot of people’s lives,” said McDermott. “It’s not an easy thing to live with at all.
“There hasn’t been any discussion about the emotional turmoil that one experiences when they feel their homes are being threatened,” said McDermott.
Janet Grace, the president of the Association to Protect Amherst Island who is also a real estate broker, said house sales on Wolfe Island and Amherst Island have plummeted.
There is a proposal to build 33 turbines along Amherst Island.
“I deal with waterfront properties,” said Grace. “When I’m asked to take people to Wolfe Island, I do so. I don’t say anything. The first thing they say when they walk in and out on the deck is, ‘Oh, my God. Nothing could make me buy this property.’ I’ve had people step out of the car and say ‘I’m feeling something strange in my head. What am I feeling.’ It’s that low, pounding sound that is affecting them.”
Before the floor was opened to questions and concerns from the public, Dr. Robert McMurtry, the dean of medicine at Waterloo University spoke, to the health impact.
“It’s been argued that there isn’t a problem with low frequency noise and infrasound, that what you can’t hear can’t hurt you,” said McMurtry. “A remarkable claim because what you can’t smell, what you can’t taste, what you can’t see can hurt you.”
The World Health Organization invoked 550-metre minimum setbacks and a noise limit based on 40 decibels.
The province’s chief medical officer of health has concluded there is no direct causal link between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects.
The audience also heard presentations from six local bird, wildlife and environment preservation groups as to why they consider Ostrander Point to be an inappropriate location for nine turbines. Infringement on a designated Important Bird Area, threats to endangered birds and wildlife, inadequate setbacks and high cost to taxpayers, and expanding the south shore for a national park were some of the topics raised by the panel.
PC energy critic Victor Fedeli to spoke to the economic impacts associated with green energy projects. Fedeli said the economy is affected by the government selling excess power to outside buyers at a loss. He spoke to high-energy bills and the global adjustment fee negatively affecting the public and business owners.
“I think we’ve been led down the green garden path,” said Fedeli.
Fedeil said he believes the Green Energy Act is flawed and the PC government will work to change it.
“It all started with the stated purpose to “green” our Ontario energy sector,” said Fedeli. “To meet that end, the government felt they needed to force-feed their philosophy to achieve the green energy goal.”
Smith said all of the concerns expressed by the various groups and community members will be submitted to the Ministry of Environment as part of the public consultation process.