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Many of our community's landowners are concerned about the impact which the proposed Brascan/SWEI wind power generation facility will have on property values. We feel that this is a legitimate concern. The investment which we make in our homes is, for most of us, the single most significant investment which we make during our lives. A development which may adversely affect property values is an appropriate subject for close scrutiny.
At its May 12, 2003 public information meeting in Thornbury, Brascan/SWEI presented its answer to the question of whether wind power generation facilities affect property values. In answering this question, Brascan/SWEI referred to a study of 22 large wind power generation facilities located in 13 counties throughout the United States which allegedly “showed that values of neighbouring properties were not adversely affected”. Brascan/SWEI also stated that “property eligible for a wind turbine greatly increased in value; from $300 to $1,000 per acre”. However, concerns have been raised around the world, from the UK (click here to view article) to Australia (click here to view article) as to the affects of turbines on property values.
The Blue Highlands Citizens Coalition is very concerned about the information which Brascan/SWEI has distributed to the public regarding this issue. To us, it is counterintuitive that property values in our community will not be adversely affected by the installation of a major wind power generation facility. We feel that property values in our area are determined by (i) the positive attributes of our area which make it such a desirable place to live ( e.g. , its relative solitude, its natural beauty, its diverse ecosystems and its lovely rural residential character), and (ii) our area's proximity to the major tourism and recreational opportunities with which the Blue Mountain/Beaver Valley/Pretty River Valley area is blessed. The issue of whether and how these value determinants will be affected by the installation of a major wind power generating facility needs to be the subject of a detailed and very careful analysis before any credible conclusion can be reached.
The Blue Highlands Citizens Coalition is also very concerned about how credible the study to which Brascan/SWEI has referred really is. We explained these concerns at our June 22, 2003 public information meeting in Thornbury. For example, we explained that the study considered sales data from Riverside County in California , an area described in the study as “desert flats and arid mountains” where 24% of the local population is below the poverty level and where the turbines have been installed along the route of a major highway, Interstate 10. The study also referred to sales data in Carson County, Texas, where the turbines have been installed in an area described by the study as “just about dead flat”, right on the edge of the Texas High Plains. Indeed, the study indicates that Carson County 's main claim to fame is as the home of Pantex, the only nuclear armament production and disassembly facility in the United States . The study also dealt with a six turbine facility in Somerset County , Pennsylvania, where according to the study only 10% of properties can see the turbines and where the county assessor is quoted as stating that “the turbines were noticeable, but because there were so few people residing there, he hasn't seen much housing turnover to base an opinion”. And in Kern County , California , where turbines have been installed since as early as 1981, sales data were reviewed for the period from 1996 to 2002 ( i.e ., up to 14 years after many of the turbines had already been installed!). The study also refers to Kern County as having the “busiest single-tracked locomotive mainline in the world”, and as being “so agricultural or lightly populated that it would be hard to isolate price changes due to the wind projects”. Finally, the Kern County assessor is quoted in the study as having said that “over 30 years of wind development an industrial cement manufacturer, among other projects, was built close to site. The cement plant spewed out dust for 10 years or more until county and federal government inspectors required upgrades 15 years ago”.
To the Blue Highlands Citizens Coalition, the weaknesses in the study mean that the reliance which Brascan/SWEI is placing on the study in order to address concerns by landowners in our area about the property value issue is simply not appropriate. Indeed, we think that it is most unfortunate that Brascan/SWEI has chosen to not address the concerns which the Blue Highlands Citizens Coalition has raised regarding the property value issue. We expressed these concerns at our June 22, 2003 public information meeting and, as of April 19, 2004 , we have had absolutely no response from Brascan/SWEI regarding the issue. Indeed, Brascan/SWEI appears to have chosen to ignore the concerns which we have raised. At its November 19, 2003 public information meeting relating to its proposed 200 MW wind power generating facility near Leamington, Brascan/SWEI presented much of the same information, and referred to the same study, regarding the impact of wind turbines on property values as was presented at the Brascan/SWEI May 12, 2003 public information meeting in Thornbury.
The Blue Highland Citizens Coalition's position on the property value issue is that (i) it's an issue which is of legitimate and proper concern on the part of local residents, (ii) there is a legitimate and credible basis on which one can conclude that the installation of a major wind power generating station in this area may well impair local property values, and (iii) Brascan/SWEI's approach to this issue to date has been wholly inadequate. We think that it is particularly unfortunate that Brascan/SWEI has chosen to rely on a study which is of questionable credibility and has not responded to legitimate concerns about the study which the Blue Highlands Citizens Coalition has expressed.
Note to the Reader: The property value issue is a good example of an issue which may well lead to different conclusions in different communities. For example, a community blessed with significant scenic values may experience property value declines when those scenic resources are impaired by inappropriate siting of turbines. On the other hand, a community characterized by uniform large-scale agricultural operations may experience property value increases due to the revenue-generating benefits to all residents of appropriately-sited turbines.
Click here to read the "house prices" section of the Country Guardian's "Case Against Windfarms".
Click here to read "Lincoln Township (Wis.) Experience with Wind Power" - There is a section on property values which is a must read!
Click here to read the property values page at the Save Upstate New York web site.
Copyright, The Blue Highlands Citizens Coalition, 2004, 2005, 2006. All rights reserved.