South Marysburgh families are suing wpd Canada and participating landowners
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 7 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, 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 familes, 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. While wpd Canada has been quoted as saying that it will “assume all of the risks associated with the project”, this remains to be seen. 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% 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.
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 .