Neighbours sue farmers for offering land to wind turbine development

John Wiggins, who with his wife Sylvia, is suing a wind developer and the landowner who is leasing property to the wind developer. John Spears/Toronto Star

John Wiggins

by John Spears, Toronto Star
Sylvia and John Wiggins put their 48-acre horse farm near Stayner up for sale last summer for $1.25 million. Then a wind developer sent out notices of its plans to put up big wind turbines on a neighbouring farm. “Prior to that time, we had a lot of action,” Wiggins said Wednesday. “But from that moment on, none.”Sylvia Wiggins, the owner of the family property, is now suing not only the wind developer, WPD Canada Corporation, but the owner of the farm that has agreed to lease property for the turbines. It’s the first time anyone has sued a property owner playing host to a wind development, Wiggins’s lawyer Eric Gillespie, told a news conference.

Gillespie said he doesn’t know if the suit will cast a chill on other landowners who are considering leasing their property to wind developers.

“The intention of this claim is to ensure that the Wiggins situation is dealt with appropriately,” he said. “Whether it has additional impacts is something that obviously we won’t know about…It’ll be a matter of time before we know.”

Wiggins is seeking an injunction against the development. She is also asking $1.5 million in damages, plus $500,000 in exemplary and punitive damages.

The claims were served on the defendants this week. Allegations in the claims have not been tested in court.

While other court cases involving wind farms have focused on the health effects of wind turbines, the Wiggins action is based on the devaluation of their property.

John Wiggins (who attended the news conference for his wife, who was unwell) said the proposed turbines will ruin the scenic views from the farmhouse, built in the 1860s.

“I used to sit on the front porch at happy hour and look out on a field of corn or wheat,” he said. “Now I’m going to look at turbines more than 500 feet tall.”

That’s the height the blades will reach. The closest will be 550 metres from the Wiggins property. That’s the closest a turbine is permitted to be under Ontario law; other turbines will be more distant.

Sylvia Wiggins, 78, used to run a horse farm on the property, but the couple recently bought a condominium in Collingwood. John Wiggins, 80, was one of the founders of Creemore Springs Brewery, but has sold his interest.

Gillespie said there’s precedent for suing the landowner when a business is detrimental to its neighbours, even if the landowner isn’t running the business.

He said in the 1980s, neighbours of a go-kart track in Niagara Falls successfully sued the landowner of the track, even though the owner had leased the property to the go-cart operator.

A spokesman for WPD Canada said the company will defend the action, but had no other comment. The farm owners were not available for comment.

14 thoughts on “Neighbours sue farmers for offering land to wind turbine development

  1. Good to see people fight for there property ,their rights,their health, not to have these turbines forced down there throats for the greedy corps and greedy farmers that do not care about their neighbours. This is not about love thy neighbours this is about their love for their bank accounts.i say go get em! as this will be a message to many others

  2. I have faith that because a precedent was set that this case will be successful. I bet the wind company will try and buy them out as a way to settle out of court. Hope these people would never sign the mandatory ‘Gag order’ that usually comes with a buy out by the wind companies. Often times the wind company buys the property and then demolishes the house. Out of sight …out of the public mind.

    • I think you’re right Melodie. The wind company will try to buy the Wiggins out for a measly $1.25 million, cheaper than the $2 million that the lawsuit would bring, but more importantly, avoiding the precident setting court decision of complainant over wind company, which would undoubtedly open the floodgates for future, similar lawsuits.

      If the Wiggins choose to be bought out, turbines will likely be erected on their farm. Without my knowing the lay of the land, I would suggest that the Wiggin’s other former neighbours may now find themselves in the same unfortunate predicament.

  3. they’ll be bought , we won’t hear a thing.
    something wrong , throw money at it , it will go away

    • Have a little faith. This is just the start. This particular siut has been in the works for awhile and is not the only one. There is another to follow. There is even rumour of lessee land owners suing a wind company. Just another avenue for folks to follow.

      It is cold outside MPAC might shortly be weighing in with a chilling new term: “Unsaleable”. Things are going to warm up.

      • That’s an interesting point. If property values are reduced translating to lower tax revenues, I wonder what recourse the municipality could have…sue the wind developers too? What about a mortgage financing organization…suddenly the installation of a bunch of IWTs turn a mortgage upside down…the financing company can sue the wind developer as well?

  4. The issue of non-disclosure agreements is a critical one. Our elected government permits non-disclosure (and, I would offer, promotes it through the actions of MPAC and its dealings with multiple owners of properties appealing property tax assessments) as a strategy to deny the public access to information. They have forgotten that they are ethically obliged to serve the interests of constituents. Instead, they promote the deliberate application of blanket non-disclosure agreements whenever there are issues of health, safety and property value associated with large wind industry projects (which for many, is their entire life’s investment). This government is actively pursuing a policy that is against the public interest, and contrary to oaths of public office.

    It is the government, and its’ individual ministers, who also ought to be named in the suit — I would start with Attorney General, the Honourable Minister John Gerretsen.

  5. Excuse me Leslie! “the ‘Honourable’ Minister John Gerretsen?
    I sure hope you are being sarcastic!
    There is absolutely nothing ‘Honourable’, about the Right ‘DIShonourable’, Lying, Theiving, John Gerretsen, Liberal M.P.P.of the newly ‘Have-not’ Ontario.

  6. Good for the Wiggins. We face the identical situation with an antique Lake Ontario farm. I have worked in the big city a big chunk of my adult life and endured the commute in order to live in the country. Now the city-backed Liberal Government forces terrible legislation in the guise of a Green Energy initiative upon all of us. The Province has divided Ontarians into two camps with this poorly conceived Act. More power to you in this suit. We will be watching

    John Conrad, MSM, CD

  7. On Manitoulin Island the Northland Power McLeans Mountain “windfarm” is 20,000 acres. The 550 m setback alone is affecting a lot of non participating neighbours. The 100 acre, 50, 25 and 5.5 acre lots are all losing rights to sever or build within the 550 m danger zone. This has the potential of a large number of lawsuits .

    • Wind companies are robbing neighbouring proprterties (signed or unsigned) of all the land within 550m of their turbines. You cannot build within that ‘dead zone’. How’s that for good property planning practices in our municipalities?

  8. Congratulations! Sylvia and John Wiggins –
    I’m in the same position.
    …..and the drumbeat carries on!

    On a personal note:

    I went to a – novitiate convent private school –
    within the pages of one my ‘Yearbooks’ – are the words:

    “…mindless worshiper’s of the system…..I vowed that I would never be a slave to a system that
    crushed my individuality and destroyed my freedom.
    Awareness of democratic liberty — the right to choose, be represented, lead.”

    And, that’s what I tell my kids!

    p.s. the OFA – along with the farmers, forgot the true essence of freedom.
    p.p.s. without responsibility freedom lacks purpose!
    p.p.s. Result – ‘muzzled farmers’ – etc….

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