A Wolfe Island couple fighting to have the negative economic effects of wind turbines factored into their house assessment will have to wait several more weeks for a final ruling on their appeal.
Ed and Gail Kenney claim important information about other property assessments on the island that resulted in reductions were not available at their original hearing.
In 2012, a Municipal Property Assessment Corporation tribunal upheld the increase on their property value, which rose from $200,000 to $357,000 between 2008 and 2010.
The Kenneys’ appeal is based on information showing that between 2008 and 2012, a total of 78 properties on Wolfe and Simcoe islands had their assessments dramatically reduced.
That, they say, resulted in $3 million in lowered assessments that should have been factored into their case.
“Those are the properties within 2,000 metres of the wind turbines. They are similar to our property,” said Gail Kenney, following Wednesday’s three-and-a-half-hour hearing in the council chambers at Kingston City Hall.
Wind turbines were not listed as a reason for lowering the assessment in any of the 78 cases.
“If you present to MPAC wind turbines, MPAC won’t listen,” she said.
The Kenneys have been fighting their case, without a lawyer, for five years.
They continued to represent themselves on Wednesday and took the opportunity to tell Richard Stephenson, the associate chairman of the assessment review board of MPAC, that the system is not user-friendly for people without legal help.
The Kenneys had to ask Stephenson procedural questions on several occasions, about when they could challenge statements and affidavits being presented by MPAC lawyer Shawn Douglas, and what new information was admissible.
Stephenson made it clear that he could only rule on whether the lowered assessments on the 78 properties could be considered new evidence.
Midway through the morning, the Kenneys requested an adjournment.
Stephenson denied it.
“We must proceed on the basis of the material before the board,” he said. “We cannot have matters just dragging on and on.”
The Kenneys say MPAC’s refusal to factor wind turbines into assessments does not reflect the reality in many rural communities.
“It is an accepted fact,” said Gail Kenney. “We know this because of what we see on the island and because of the studies that have been done.”
The Kenneys say properties on the west end of Wolfe Island, where the majority of the 86 turbines are located, don’t sell for several years.
And when they do, sale prices are below the asking prices.
“Most people think we’re trying to devalue their property,” said Gail Kenney.
“We are trying to get a fair assessment so our taxes are based on fair value. We’ve lost value on our property. We know this because properties have all had their prices reduced to sell. People don’t understand they’ve already lost value and are paying taxes on value they don’t have.”
The Kenneys were glad of one development on Wednesday: that their township did not send legal representation to the appeal hearing.
A freedom of information request filed by the couple revealed that nearly $50,000 in legal and other fees has been spent by Township of Frontenac Islands to participate in the case.
Stephenson reserved his decision on Wednesday, telling the Kenneys he would prefer to give them the reasons for his ruling in writing, some time in the next two to three weeks.
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