In compliance with the municipal requirements of the Grey Highlands, the public open house was held to provide citizens with a Visual Impact Assessment (VIA) of the proposed amendment to build twelve new wind turbines along Grey Road 12. The open house featured displays with photos of the proposed sites with the turbines added through computer graphics and representatives from AIM were on hand to address any questions the public may have had.
A group of protestors from Blue Highlands and Grey Highlands Wind Action Group set up along Grey Road 2 outside the community centre carrying signs displaying anti-wind power and anti-AIM slogans.
“We want to represent the victims, people who develop health problems living in proximity to wind farms,” said Lorrie Gillis. “There’s a real void in the government not responding to these health issues.”
Despite the fact that studies suggest no member of the public has ever been harmed by wind turbines since the technology’s inception 25 years ago, Gillis insists that people living in their vicinity suffer from headaches, illness and sleep deprivation but are too afraid to come forward. She also believes that complicated wording in a recent creates the illusion that 80 percent of the public supports wind power and that the actual number is much lower.
“On the surface it looks like the answer to everything,” said Gillis. “That isn’t true and on top of that there are a lot of people getting sick.”
Protestors entered the community centre about an hour into the open house, gathering in the centre of the hall demanding their questions be answered. AIM representative Jim Woolgar told the crowd that their concerns would be addressed at a later public meeting and that the open house would be shut down if the disruption continued. Gillis engaged Woolgar in a heated exchange before he left the crowd. The protestors demanded another representative answer their questions before declaring the meeting was a “sham” and leaving. However, the protestors did succeed in cultivating anger over the project among other residents in attendance.
“There are six of them around my house. My property value will drop 30 percent because of these things,” said resident Kevin Darling. “When I bought my place six years ago I had no idea they would be built. They’re giving me nothing; the wind apparently stops at my fence.”
“It’s just AIM PowerGen’s self-serving agenda,” said Bob Wilton, a neighbour of Darling. “They have no regard for people with turbines on their property.”
Others in attendance questioned the company’s motives for choosing an open house format.
“It’s easier for them to deal with hard questions one-on-one and skirt the question,” said Allan Lewis. “It’s a divide and conquer type thing. If you don’t know what’s going on, you don’t know what questions to ask.”
“There really was no meeting; it’s just a display of what the company is wanting to do,” said Lorrie Gillis. “All we want is a sit down public meeting, in this set up there is no conversation.”
Protestor and citizen questions should be answered in a public meeting with Grey Highlands officials and AIM PowerGen representatives tentatively scheduled for the end of June.
By Shawn McNamara