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Will turbines affect your home’s value?

DIXON – The debate continues about whether wind turbines affect residents’ property values.

Some contend wind farms cause neighboring property values to drop, while wind industry supporters say turbines have no major effect.

Many Lee County residents have worried for years about the impact of turbines on their home values. Now, some have the same fears in Whiteside County, with the recent revelation that a company is planning to include Deer Grove in its three-county wind farm.

Wind industry backers point to a peer-reviewed study to make their case. In 2009, a team of researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., found no evidence that wind turbines had a measurable or consistent effect on surrounding home prices.

The researchers noted that they didn’t dismiss the possibility that wind farms may affect small numbers of nearby homes, but that such results were either too small or infrequent to have a “statistically observable impact.”

That study included Lee County among 10 communities from around the country. In Lee County, the researchers looked at the effects of three wind farms near Compton, West Brooklyn and Sublette.

Steve Robery, a Franklin Grove resident pushing for more regulation of the wind industry, questioned the study. He noted that 91 percent of the homes in the Lee County portion of the analysis didn’t have views of the turbines and 99 percent were more than a mile away. Only two homes were closer than a mile.

“Unfortunately, this information was buried in the appendix of the Berkeley report,” said Robery, a member of the recently disbanded committee reviewing Lee County’s wind farm ordinance.

Robery prefers a 2009 report by Chicago-based McCann Appraisal LLC. That document indicates a 25 percent reduction in the value of homes near the Mendota Hills wind farm, which is close to Compton and West Brooklyn.

“If one wishes to learn the price of tea in China, then that is where one must look. To apply the analogy, it follows that one is not likely to find the true answer to the question of ground zero impacts [of turbines] if focusing on greater distances,” appraiser Michael McCann said in his report.

Ben Hoen, a New York-based researcher for Berkeley, said his group’s study has been recognized nationally. The American Real Estate Society has slated the Berkeley study for publication in a coming edition.

“I see it as the highest quality work out there. Those with claims to the contrary have not produced similar work,” Hoen said. “They [real estate society] don’t have a horse in the race with wind turbines.”

Although Berkeley’s study didn’t consist of many homes near turbines in Lee County, other communities analyzed did, he said. The researchers only found two sales of homes within a mile of turbines, he added.

“There wasn’t a great density of homes,” Hoen said.

The Lee County committee studying wind farm issues talked about property value guarantees, but as with all other topics, its members didn’t take a vote on the issue.

Now, the Zoning Board of Appeals will make recommendations on updates to the wind farm ordinance. The County Board has the final say.