Court decision paves the way for future lawsuits against wind turbine companies and lease holders
By Amanda Brodhagen, Farms.com
An Ontario Superior Court of Justice has determined that landowners living near industrial wind turbine projects do suffer from diminished property values. The court accepts that 22% to 55% loss of property values is occurring today. While the court found that residences may suffer from diminished property values near wind farms, Madam Justice S.E. Healey dismissed the claims made by the Collingwood area landowners who sued the wind company – Canada Corp. and lease holders, because the proposed eight-wind turbine project has yet to receive approval by the provincial government.
The claim was made by Sylvia and John Wiggins, who sued for $2 million and argued that no one would buy their 48-acre horse farm once the wind project was announced for the area. The couple was also joined by other property owners.
The decision states that while the residence of Clearview Township cannot take action for reduced property values prior to the approval of the project, they could take action later. The ruling says “without prejudice to the plaintiffs' rights to commence an action for identical or similar relief when and if the Fairview Wind Project receives the necessary approvals to be constructed."
Eric Gillespie, the lawyer representing the landowners says the decision will clear the way for actions against both wind developers and lease holders. "It now seems clear that as soon as a project is approved, residents can start a claim. This appears to be a major step forward for people with concerns about industrial wind projects across Ontario,” said Gillespie.
Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of community groups concerned about the negative impacts of wind projects, released a statement saying “…this is vindication for Ontario's rural and small urban residents, and for municipal councils who try to protect their citizens by declaring they are not 'willing hosts' to wind power generation projects,” said Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns.
While Gillespie is calling this a major breakthrough for his clients, a spokesperson for the wind company - Kevin Surette, downplayed the significance of the courts findings saying that the ruling came early in the proceedings, noting that the court based its opinion on the evidence of the plaintiffs. Surrette said that had the case proceeded, they would have challenged those claims.
The Ontario ministry of environment has six months to either approve the wind project or reject it.