West Grey Council brings sides together for wind meeting

Industry, opponents represented in meeting set for Thursday
Posted By Don Crosby Owen Sound Sun Times

Residents of West Grey and surrounding municipalities have a chance to learn more about industrial wind turbines and their effects on health, the local economy and property values.

Speakers at a meeting being organized by West Grey council later this week include a representative of Nextera, a Florida-based company that plans to build a dozen industrial turbines west of Priceville, a spokesperson for Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) and Carmen Krogh, a retired pharmacist, as well as real estate agent and West Grey resident Mike McMurray.

“The idea is to bring out both sides of the issue hopefully in an open forum, not a one-sided discussion,” said West Grey Deputy-mayor Dan Sullivan, who is concerned that under Ontario’s Green Energy Act most of the approval process has been taken over by the province, which leaves municipalities and the public with fewer ways to get good information about wind energy proposals.

“It’s frustrating to think that the province could tomorrow give approvals and there is so little process,” he said.

West Grey council is interested in knowing what effect wind turbines have on property values and how they are assessed for tax purposes by MPAC.

A recent decision by the provincial Assessment Review Board reduced the assessed value of a home in Amaranth Township by 50%. The owner’s house is across the road from a hydro transformer that is part of an industrial wind energy park.

“It will be interesting to see if Nextera can answer some tough questions when they are in a formal meeting. They sure can’t seem to answer many questions at their open houses,” said Lorrie Gillis, a spokesperson for The Society for Wind Vigilance, a volunteer advocacy federation that provides information about the health effects of wind turbines.

“From going to two of their open houses I found that the company representatives can’t answer important questions about where the health studies are showing us these turbines are safe . . . I don’t think we’ll get any more answers than at the open houses, but at least everyone will hear the questions and hear what kind of answers Nextera will give,” Gillis said.

Krogh, who lives near Barry’s Bay, is a retired pharmacist with more than 40 years of experience in the health field. She has researched the health effects of wind turbines for several years after a personal experience that changed her perspective on wind energy.

Krogh says there’s been plenty of research done on wind turbines, but none on the effects they have on human health. Now is the time to study people and their health, she said.

Her interest was sparked by a personal experience a few years ago when she and her husband stopped their car less than half a kilometre away from a small wind turbine on Hwy. 17 outside of Blind River near Sudbury.

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“I didn’t really notice it at first, then the blades started turning fairly quickly and I developed these systems that were pretty concerning within four or five minutes. I got the typical responses reported world wide, a headache then a disturbing internal heart sensation and chest sensation and a very very uncomfortable nausea. My husband could tell something had happened and said I looked just awful,” said Krogh.

“Once we left everything cleared up fairly quickly except the headache which lingered for some time until the next day.”

Krogh said that at the time she didn’t connect her symptoms with the wind turbine. About three years later while doing some research she saw the symptoms described.

“It hit me. This is exactly what happened to me and I started researching this more,” she said.

While he’s not opposed to wind energy, McMurray said industrial wind turbine proposals for West Grey are in the wrong place, on valuable residential and recreational property.

McMurray, who considers large parts of West Grey much more recreational than agricultural, wants wind farms located in areas where they won’t affect people or property values.

“In West Grey there are very few pieces of land that are bigger than 100 acres, very few large open expanses. Quite a lot of it has been severed, because it was never prime farmland and it’s become a recreational area,” he said.

McMurray says too many people living in rural West Grey such as farmers depend on the sale of their farms or parcels of land as their retirement nest eggs.

He says wind turbines drive down the price of surrounding properties and keep city buyers from moving to the area.

“Try to put one of these in front of Premier McGuinty’s cottage and see what happens,” McMurray said.

West Grey has invited the mayors and councils of neighbouring municipalities who also have potential wind energy development projects in the planning stages to Thursday’s meeting.

The public meeting is 7-9 p.m Thursday at the Durham community centre, 451 Saddler St.