TORONTO – Do wind farms drive down the prices of nearby homes?
That question is at the heart of a potentially precedent-setting two-day property value review, which began Tuesday in eastern Ontario.
The complainants, Ed and Gail Kenney, a couple from Wolfe Island, near Kingston, Ont., are asking the province’s Assessment Review Board to lower their property tax assessment of $357,000 to reflect the fact a nearby project with 86 wind turbines has lowered the value of their home.
Although a decision by the independent tribunal could still be months away. But if the couple wins, the stage could be set for similar appeals across Canada.
Opponents to wind energy claim large-scale industrial wind projects are inefficient, being placed too close to residences, and are harmful to wildlife and human health.
“The reality is that when wind turbines are in a community, that is the factor,” said John Laforet, the president of Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of 57 citizen advocacy groups.
He says homeowners, such as the Kenneys who live near wind turbines, are not only seeing their health deteriorate but their property values in a free fall.
Some people have reported the low frequency noise from the turbine blades have led to a number of health effects including sleeplessness, migraines and even hypertension, which can lead to heart disease.
“There are a number of examples of properties not selling near where there are even proposals (of wind farms) because people don’t even want to catch a falling knife, as the saying goes,” said Laforet. “(These homes) are devalued because they’re not worth what they used to be.”
In Canada, wind energy is believed to be the fastest growing energy sector in Canada. It currently powers 4,611 megawatts, generating enough to supply more than one million homes.
In the past few years, wind farms have popped up mostly in Alberta, Quebec and Ontario, where the introduction of the province’s Green Energy Act has provided large financial incentives for the clean energy industry.
The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC), which has standing in the case and is responsible for valuing homes, says its recent studies and similar ones done in the U.S. do not show that home values are connected to nearby wind farms.
“When wind turbines first started to emerge on the horizon in Ontario . . . we looked at the sales of the properties in proximity to wind turbines to see whether or not we see a trend being affected,” said Rose McLean, director of legal and policy support for the Crown corporation. “And so far we haven’t seen that.”
Other jurisdictions in Canada have also reported no drop in these property values, she said.
Since early 2010, MPAC has reviewed the sales of 20 properties near wind farm projects and found no lowering of value.
The association admits the review does not include homes which have not been sold, and may have lingered on the market without interest.
But it also says there are a number of other factors besides nearby wind turbines that can affect rural property values such soil texture, drainage, topography and whether the land can be used for crops or livestock.
The Canadian Wind Energy Association, which is holding its annual conference this week in Vancouver, says rural property values are unpredictable compared to urban property values.
It points to a study released last month by real estate giant Re/Max that found farm land prices in southwestern Ontario regions where wind energy projects exist have actually increased in the past few years.
The Kenney’s property value review hearing continues Wednesday.
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