Hartsburg, Ill. – And on and on it goes.
Despite testimony and public comment beyond 10:30 p.m. Thursday, the Logan County Zoning Board of Appeals’ hearings on wind turbine construction are still not complete.
Rick Porter, attorney for Union Ridge Wind, presented testimony from appraiser Steve McCann at the ZBA hearings Thursday at Hartsburg-Emden High School.
The purpose of McCann’s testimony, according to Porter, was to show that the Rail Splitter Wind Farm will have a negative effect on property values surrounding the project.
McCann qualified himself by testifying that in his 28 years of experience, he has worked on hundreds of project appraisals, including projects involving landfills, power lines, cell towers and other large structures. He said, mostly, he has testified on the proponents’ side of the argument.
“What’s different this time?” asked Porter.
“(The residences) are located in the footprint of the project, rather than miles away,” said McCann. “That’s never happened with landfills, power lines or cell towers.”
McCann said all of Porter’s clients were located in the footprint of the Rail Splitter project, which means they have properties likely to be encompassed on multiple sides by the 400-foot tall structures.
McCann stated in other situations he has experienced, companies erecting structures in close proximity to residences have either offered a property value guarantee or have simply bought out the effected properties.
The appraiser also said properties he studied around other wind farm projects have a longer exposure time than houses outside of these type of projects (Exposure refers to the amount of time a home has been on the market). McCann claims to have spoken with some Realtors who attribute this to wind turbines located near the homes they were selling.
Cheryl Wagner spoke from personal experience.
Wagner claims to have shown her home to interested buyers, and upon hearing there may be wind farm construction in the area, they became disinterested.
McCann estimates each home in the footprint of the project to suffer a $43,750 loss.
He said, in his professional opinion, he doesn’t believe anyone would want to construct or buy a home in the footprint of this project.
Frank Miles, attorney for Horizon Wind Energy, argued that it was normal for any property in today’s market to suffer a longer exposure time.
“Thirty to 40 days is normal,” said McCann. “Not 840.”
Porter also brought up the issue of “stigma damage” and how this relates to Wind Turbine Syndrome.
Stigma damage refers to the psychology of people not wanting to buy the property because of hearing negative issues about the property.
McCann said if people read about Wind Turbine Syndrome – a syndrome made known by a New York doctor, with symptoms that include headaches, nausea and sleep disorder – they will be hesitant to buy a property around wind turbines.
“This is negative information that influences people, whether you are buying or selling,” said McCann. “The stigma affects their decision.”
Besides speaking about property values, Porter appealed to the ZBA about honoring its own standards in issuing a conditional-use permit.
According to guidelines established in issuing a conditional-use permit, the permit cannot be issued if it affects the general welfare of the surrounding residents.
“Does it affect the general welfare (of residents in the footprint)?” asked Porter.
“Yes, it does,” answered McCann.
Besides Wagner, two other residents voiced their concerns to the ZBA. Both were against the construction of wind turbines in the area.
Although the zoning board of appeals hoped to wrap up both testimony and public comment on Thursday evening, a cross-examination of Horizon’s project manager Bill Whitlock, along with more public comments are still set to be heard.
The ZBA wanted to schedule additional hearings for Tuesday, however, Porter is not available on this day. Hearings were finally established for 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
By Joshua Niziolkiewicz
20 June 2008