Cohocton Wind Watch: Neighbours sue farmers for offering land to wind turbine development
Cohocton Wind Watch is a community citizen organization dedicated to preserve the public safety, property values, economic viability, environmental integrity and quality of life in Cohocton, NY and in surrounding townships. Neighbors committed to public service in order to achieve a reasonable vision for a Finger Lakes region worthy of future generations.


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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Neighbours sue farmers for offering land to wind turbine development

Sylvia and John Wiggins put their 48-acre horse farm near Stayner up for sale last summer for $1.25 million.

Then a wind developer sent out notices of its plans to put up big wind turbines on a neighbouring farm.

“Prior to that time, we had a lot of action,” Wiggins said Wednesday. “But from that moment on, none.”

Sylvia Wiggins, the owner of the family property, is now suing not only the wind developer, WPD Canada Corporation, but the owner of the farm that has agreed to lease property for the turbines.

It’s the first time anyone has sued a property owner playing host to a wind development, Wiggins’s lawyer Eric Gillespie, told a news conference.

Gillespie said he doesn’t know if the suit will cast a chill on other landowners who are considering leasing their property to wind developers.

“The intention of this claim is to ensure that the Wiggins situation is dealt with appropriately,” he said. “Whether it has additional impacts is something that obviously we won’t know about…It’ll be a matter of time before we know.”

Wiggins is seeking an injunction against the development. She is also asking $1.5 million in damages, plus $500,000 in exemplary and punitive damages.

The claims were served on the defendants this week. Allegations in the claims have not been tested in court.

While other court cases involving wind farms have focused on the health effects of wind turbines, the Wiggins action is based on the devaluation of their property.

John Wiggins (who attended the news conference for his wife, who was unwell) said the proposed turbines will ruin the scenic views from the farmhouse, built in the 1860s.

“I used to sit on the front porch at happy hour and look out on a field of corn or wheat,” he said. “Now I’m going to look at turbines more than 500 feet tall.”

That’s the height the blades will reach. The closest will be 550 metres from the Wiggins property. That’s the closest a turbine is permitted to be under Ontario law; other turbines will be more distant.

Sylvia Wiggins, 78, used to run a horse farm on the property, but the couple recently bought a condominium in Collingwood. John Wiggins, 80, was one of the founders of Creemore Springs Brewery, but has sold his interest.

Gillespie said there’s precedent for suing the landowner when a business is detrimental to its neighbours, even if the landowner isn’t running the business.

He said in the 1980s, neighbours of a go-kart track in Niagara Falls successfully sued the landowner of the track, even though the owner had leased the property to the go-cart operator.

A spokesman for WPD Canada said the company will defend the action, but had no other comment. The farm owners were not available for comment.

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