Hunt for meeting spot complicated
By DEBORA VAN BRENK, The London Free Press
Amy Chan has owned a restaurant around Strathroy for 24 years, but it wasn’t until now that she felt compelled to cancel a booking for fear of protests.
Chan has never seen an issue rock rural Ontario like the coming of industrial wind turbines. So when her staff took a booking for her banquet hall at Amy’s from the continent’s largest wind company, NextEra Energy, to presents its plan on July 12, she phoned them back to cancel.
“People protesting — it wouldn’t be good,” Chan told The Free Press Friday.
Bookings have been light so far in Chan’s new hall in Adelaide Metcalfe Township, but Chan is focused on keeping in the good graces of neighbours.
“This is a very small town. People are happy — we hardly have any issues, but this time it seems they are very angry.”
That anger has boiled up often. Mayor David Bolton twice calling police to stop citizens from videotaping council meetings — an issue resolved in the favour of citizens. And the Liberals lost many rural seats in last October’s Ontario election.
That anger has left NextEra Energy’s Canadian subsidiary scrambling to find a place to hold the meeting. “We sincerely apologize for any confusion these circumstances may have caused,” the company wrote in a paid notice in Friday’s Free Press.
The cancellation by Chan was the third hurdle for NextEra Energy. It told residents the meeting would take place at Adelaide-W.G. MacDonald public school, only to discover there would be no custodial service because it was the summer. Then the company booked the township’s municipal office, only to find it was too small.
“Postponing it is not ideal,” NextEra spokesperson Josie Hernandez said. “This is something we had never expected to happen.”
The open house was meant to allow residents to ask questions about technical details of the wind-turbine plan. It was to have included site plans, environmental reports, ecological impact and decommissioning plans.
“Absolutely it’s a big event for us,” Hernandez said. “It is an opportunity for the community to see (where) we have sited our turbines and . . . why.”
Turbine opponent Esther Wrightman remains skeptical. She said she believes the confusion was “a little bit deliberate and a little bit sloppy.”
Either way, poor planning doesn’t speak well of the Florida-based company, she said. “If they make errors on something like that, what else are they going to mess up on?”
Hernandez said residents will be given at least 30 days notice about the date of the meeting and can attend an open house July 11 in Ailsa Craig for the same project.
–With files from Free Press reporter Jonathan Sher
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Worldwide, Florida-based NextEra has 8,500 operating turbines. NextEra Canada has eight projects in the planning process in Ontario, including five locations in Southwestern Ontario that total 186 potential turbines.
ISSUE Proponents say turbines green Ontario’s energy supply and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Detractors complain they are a hazard to migratory birds, a health risk to neighbours and too costly for taxpayers.