There has been persistent opposition from a number of Denbigh residents as well as the group BEARAT (Bon Echo Area Residents Against Turbines) before and after Addington Highlands Council decided to support the bids by RES Canada and NextEra for wind generation contracts.
Reeve Henry Hogg, who has expressed his support for the projects ever since they first surfaced in early March of this year, has been the target of much criticism from the opposition groups, including Paul Isaacs, a Denbigh resident who has launched a public call for the Denbigh ward to secede from Addington Highlands entirely.
In the end, with Council deadlocked at two, it was Hogg who settled all three votes on the matter, each time by supporting wind power in Addington Highlands. Through it all, Reeve Hogg has said little about his own reasons for supporting the project.
“I was in a position of presiding over a process,” he said early this week in a telephone interview, “and not in a position to express my opinion except when I ended up having to vote on the motions that came forward”.
At the first presentation to Council in March by NextEra, Hogg was inclined to support the proposal on the spot, which is something he now says “may have been premature.”
For one thing, delaying acceptance resulted in a significant increase in the “community vibrancy fund” that the township will receive if either company succeeds in the bidding process and ends up putting up turbines in the township.
As well, the township ended up doing research on turbines, talking to other municipalities where both NextEra and RES have constructed and are running projects, attended presentations by the companies, and heard from the public.
“None of that has changed my view about the turbines,” said Hogg. “I felt they were good for the township from the start and I still feel that way.”
Hogg said that he has not only served as reeve of Addington Highlands for many years, but has lived and worked in Ward 1 of the township for 40 years. "I was the only member of council from Ward 1 who has made his living and raised our family in Ward 1".
One of the critiques of the decision to support the turbine companies was that the Ward 2 politicians out-voted the local Ward 1 politicians who opposed them, but Hogg takes exception to that argument, because with him the majority of Council comes from Ward 1, which is slightly less populated than Ward 2.
“When you look at Highway 41 north of Bon Echo and see the number of businesses that are boarded up, restaurants that are closed, it tells you that the local economy could not sustain them,” he said. “Even if there are only a few jobs created by this, a few is better than none.”
He related that what the research township staff has done and the information he received from other municipalities indicate that turbines don't cause either adverse health effects or a drop in property values and have been of net benefit to the local economies wherever they are located.
“We looked at these things; we had our staff do research and this is what they found,” he said. “Some of the people who are against it are saying it will harm our tourism base and the pristine wilderness. We don't have a tourism base; we never have. We do have cottages, of course, and they are crucial to us keeping anything going at all, but that isn't tourism. We also don't have pristine wilderness; everything was logged in what is now Addington Highlands 200 years ago.”
He said that most of the opposition is based on people not wanting to see turbines, even at a distance, from their property or their township.
“To me, people come up with arguments against them mainly because they don't want to see them. We had the same reaction when we wanted to bring an eco-lodge to Skootamatta Lake a number of years ago. But in this case, they can go ahead even without our approval, and if they do go ahead, I want to be on the inside instead of on the outside looking in.”
And far as the process that council went through before passing a motion of support, he said that he never talked to any of the council members before the vote about what they were planning.
“I didn't think that was appropriate, but I kind of knew the way four of the five of us were going to vote.”
He does admit, however, that the opposition to turbines caught him by surprise.
“When RES first came here in 2008, nobody said a word against it, and when we put it in our Official Plan, nobody said anything, so I was not ready for what has happened, but then again there are 4,600 permanent and seasonal residents in the township and we have only heard from 50 to 100 people against this. When I look down the road at the long-term needs of Addington Highlands, I see this as a potential benefit if it goes ahead. Nothing I have heard has made me think any differently about it.”