If Huron East has decided it cannot protect the health and safety of its citizens under the Green Energy Act, perhaps it can protect the property value of its ratepayers, suggested Dennis Mueller at council’s May 15 meeting.
Mueller, a resident of McNabb Line where the transmission lines for the St. Columban wind project are proposed to be located by St. Columban Energy LP, told councillors he has spent close to $1,000 on appraisals of his property, stray voltage and medical condition in anticipation of the project and expects his property value to decrease by 20 per cent of $54,000 if the St. Columban wind project proceeds. He added that he is concerned the vibration of the drilling for the underground line will damage his well.
“Our property is our investment and that is in jeopardy,” he said. “Please consider a bylaw to protect our investment.”
Mueller, a member of Huron East Against Turbines (HEAT), added all properties along the 43 kilometres of proposed transmission line will also be devalued.
“That means a lower property tax base. We as a municipality are going to lose a lot of money,” he said, adding that Huron East cannot depend on a vibrancy fund that might not even be offered in the case of the St. Columban wind project.
He presented steps to follow for property owners to file for tax reductions if industrial wind turbines or substations are near their homes.
Mueller also shared some quotes taken for the recent appraisal of his home which said the development of wind turbines and their transportation routes “are considered to have questionable environmental and habitation elements that would effect value trending and marketability.”
“The appraiser’s average devaluation projection was 20 per cent for Huron East (as much as 40 per cent closer to the project area you get). Everyone in Huron East will be affected – not just the project area,” he said in an accompanying letter to council.
Mayor Bernie MacLellan said he thought there is some merit in the idea of a municipal bylaw protecting local property values but wondered if the municipality would be able to prove when and why property values decrease.
“This is a bylaw we can stand behind but we may have problems proving it wasn’t the economic downturn that cause the decrease and was caused by a turbine,” he said.
Mueller responded that properties that have been appraised before the project is built can prove the decreased value afterwards.
MacLellan also wondered if a municipal bylaw would give local landowners a tool to recoup their losses from a wind company or whether the municipality would end up having to take the wind company to court.
Tuckersmith Coun. Les Falconer asked if Huron East can find out if regions where industrial wind turbines are located, like ACW (Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh), have experienced loss of tax assessment.
“We haven’t seen any evidence yet that assessements have been reduced,” said Clerk-Administrator Brad Knight, adding that he’s like a copy of any evidence Mueller has of reduced assessment caused by the proximity of industrial wind turbines.
“But, no one’s been as thorough as Dennis,” replied McKillop Coun. Bill Siemon, of Mueller’s property appraisal before the project is built.
When Deputy-Mayor Joe Steffler pointed out that land values haven’t decreased in Chatham-Kent, Mueller said there is a difference between the value of agricultural land and small rural residences near wind projects.
“I like the idea that there may be a possibility to do something here,” said MacLellan. “It’s in our best interests and the ratepayers’ to ask if there’s a possibility that there could be any decrease in property value so that the property owner can be compensated and the municipality be compensated in tax dollars.”
MacLellan added that proving the decrease in property value will come down to the property owners having valid appraisals completed at the proper time.
Steffler wondered if the road user agreement being negotiated between the wind developers and the municipality would address the issue of decreased property values.
Knight responded that the road agreement will be worked out during the next six months but added he didn’t think it would cover issues on private property.
“We have to talk about whether we can do something about it in a bylaw,” he said.
Siemon said Huron East should get legal advice before proceeding with a bylaw.
Falconer added that Huron East still has to follow up with the response from Veresen (St. Columban Energy LP) to the municipality’s concerns about the location of the transmission lines.
“I still don’t think Cranbrook is the place for this transmission line,” he said.
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