Wiggins sues Beattie Brothers & wpd

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Sylvia Wiggins’attempt to stop wpd Canada Corporation from erecting eight wind turbines on land near her Clearview Township farm pits her and husband John against their neighbours, the Beattie Brothers, who own the land on which the proposed wind farm is to be built.

“This is the first time that the lessor of the land is also being sued,” said Eric Gillespie, the Toronto-based environmental lawyer retained by Wiggins. Gillespie is involved in several other claims against wind developers in the province, but he said this one is “unique.”

The Wiggins suit, which was filed last week against the Beattie Brothers and wpd Corp., is seeking an injunction to halt the project and $2 million in damages, alleging among other things that the proposed project has resulted in a reduction in property values.

According to the statement of claim, the Wiggins purchased the property located on Nottawasaga Concession 6 North in October 2006 as a horse farm.

The retired couple subsequently put about $700,000 into renovations to the Victorian farmhouse, barns and outbuildings. On June 7, 2010, John and Sylvia, who are 80 and 78 respectively, listed the property for sale for $1.25 million, which elicited interest from several prospective buyers. On June 20, the couple received a notice of Draft Site Plan from wpd Corp., and on June 25 the Beattie Brothers signed an option to lease with the company.

The claim states that since then, there has been no further interest in the property from potential buyers. “As far as the Wiggins are concerned,” said Gillespie, “since they have no prospect of selling, the value of their property has been reduced to nil.”
Contacted at wpd’s Mississauga offices, spokesman Kevin Surette said: “At this point we aren’t prepared to comment on legal matters before the court, but we will be defending ourselves against the lawsuit.”

Known as the Fairview Wind Farm, the proposed project includes eight turbines. The three closest to the Wiggins’ property are located approximately 550 metres, 750 metres and 950 metres away, respectively.

The claim alleges that the Wiggins’ property “will be exposed to significant audible and inaudible noise and light flicker, together with low-frequency electrical grounding that will cause annoyance and decrease the value of the property.”

The claim further alleges that the lessors “knew that the escape of sound/noise was a natural and necessary result of the operation of the industrial wind facility” and thus “have breached its duty of care to Sylvia Wiggins.”

The allegations in the statement of claim have not been proven in court and the defendants have yet to file their defence to it.

“We have a fairly valuable property,” John Wiggins told the Echo, “and the prospect of a wind farm next door has devalued it. They [the Beattie Brothers] went into a deal here and they’re complicit. I hold them responsible. Sylvia and I didn’t have a choice.”

In a strongly worded statement, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture this week called on government to suspend wind turbine development in Ontario because of “the tremendous tension [it is causing] among rural residents and community neighbours.”

“We are hearing very clearly from our members,” said Mark Wales, president of the OFA, “that the wind turbine situation is coming to a head, seriously dividing rural communities and even jeopardizing farm succession planning.”

“The whole thing is causing quite a stir,” said Wiggins, adding that about 20 of his neighbours now want to meet to discuss their options. In other words, he said, there could be more lawsuits.

In short, said Gillespie of the Wiggins lawsuit, “Landowners who decide to allow turbines may need to look carefully at their legal position and potential liability.”

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