To the Expositor:
Proposed wind turbine construction on Manitoulin has created strained relationships between those that have signed contracts and their neighbours. Why is this happening?
First, it is important to note that the Green Energy Act has established that a 550 meter buffer zone will surround all turbines constructed in Ontario. Within this buffer zone or “potential danger zone,” adjacent property owners that neither have nor want wind turbines will be restricted in the usage of their own property. The essential question is this. Is the 550 meter buffer, potential danger zone or setback, as it is called by the wind industry, part of the wind turbine or not part of the wind turbine? In this text, I argue that it is part of the wind turbine. The question that follows is, why is someone able to build something that will extend onto a neighbour’s property without the neighbour’s consent? Why is someone able to build something that includes a potential danger zone, that will remove rights of use and will devalue a neighbour’s property without the neighbour’s consent? This is expropriation without compensation!
The solution is simple. If the property owners involved all agree; that is, if those that will have the wind turbine along with those that will have the buffer zones extend onto their property agree, satisfactory compensation can be arranged for everyone. An imaginary cone can be placed over the highest tip of the turbine. The cone would have a radius of 550 meter. From this, a person would then calculate the area of this cone that extends onto the neighbour’s property. A ratio would then be established.
Using this ratio, it becomes easy to establish a satisfactory compensation. For example, if an individual decides to build a wind turbine on or near his or her neighbour’s property line, the neighbour would be entitled to receive a percentage corresponding to the ratio as yearly compensation. Suppose a wind turbine owner receives $10,000 per year and 35 percent of the buffer, potential danger zone area was on his neighbour’s property, the wind turbine property owner would owe $3,500 per year to his neighbour. Another possibility would be to have the wind company pay 35 percent of the amount paid to the original landowner, paid to the affected neighbour. This arrangement would work perfectly in the cases where all parties were in agreement with the construction of the wind turbine in the first place. This cone method seems to distribute compensation in a fair and equitable way.
Now, what about the neighbour that does not want the buffer coming onto his or her property? The main landowner would still be able to construct the wind turbine but he or she would have to make sure that the entire potential danger zone would be on his or her property. Since the entire cone would be on the leaseholder’s property, it would also entitled them to the entire amount of compensation. Not a bad deal!
What about neighbours who have signed the “Good Neighbour Clause” and who now feel that they were asked to sign a document when all the property restrictions were not divulged? Should they have a way of going back on their decision? Absolutely. Should they have the possibility of making their original deal obsolete? Absolutely. Many wind turbine companies have been going forward under a veil of secrecy and have used confidentiality agreements that have prevented transparency and the sharing of objective information among the “good neighbours.”
This article does not encourage the construction of wind turbines, especially on Manitoulin Island. It is too much of a beautiful Island to destroy in this manner. What I am trying to express is that if the Province of Ontario is bent on destroying its “picture perfect natural beauty,” it has to make sure that the social fabric of Manitoulin is not destroyed at the same time. Relationships that are destroyed by this will be destroyed for generations to come. That is the destruction that will hurt the very most. The wind turbines have not even begun construction and we are already feeling high levels of psychological stress and social division.
If you, as a property owner, are ever approached by a neighbour that wants to build a wind turbine close to your property line, do not sign the “Good Neighbour Clause.” A very good neighbour would never ask you to sign this type of document. How ironic! A contract’s deceptive intention veiled by such a name. For wind turbines only, it should be called, “You Don’t Know What You Have Just Given Away Clause”—your money, your health, your friends. Remember the cone model compensation arrangement, if you are the neighbour, you will need this income just to offset the depreciation in your property value. Worst case scenario, you will need this income to establish a new residence if you are one of the ten percent that are affected healthwise.
If you are living in that house in my diagram, like many of my neighbours, the next time that you are accused of NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard), ask that person to write you a cheque. You, as the victim of these wind turbines, should not be asked to bear the brunt of the province’s attempts at solving global warming. Remember that even the Auditor General of Ontario, according to the National Post on December 6, 2011, suggests that these wind turbines, as part of the green energy mandate, represent “bad policy badly implemented,” “misappropriating the levers of authority,” and “fiscal negligence and abuse.”
Also remember that many countries have now increased the buffer zone to 2,000 meters. There is a reason for that! Lastly, remember one more thing, something that is legal is not always necessarily ethical. When a buffer zone takes away from a neighbour’s livelihood, there is also a moral issue that needs to be addressed. Legal, ethical and moral, the wind turbines have to be concerned with all three, not just one.