GEORGIA, Vt. – Scott and Melodie McLane own 15 acres on the north side of Georgia Mountain.
“It’s just the perfect place,” Scott said.
Up until last year, they thought of it as their little piece of paradise.
“It used to be a quiet, peaceful– the place that we wanted to retire in and spend out whole lives in,” Melodie said.
They can see and hear the four turbines from the new Georgia Mountain wind project from their home. And while they are first to admit the noise isn’t omnipresent, it can– on occasions– keep them up at night.
“At 2 o’clock in the morning it’s like a jet’s going overhead and never leaving sound or a rumble, rumble like a train is coming up over the mountain,” Melodie said.
Since the four turbines came online last year, the McLanes and another couple appealed their town assessed property value. Last month, the Georgia Board of Civil Authority agreed, lowering the assessed value on the $400,000 home by more than $50,000, lowering their taxes but also affecting the homes resale value.
By regulation, the project is required to keep outside sound levels no higher than 45 decibels and project officials insist they are staying within those levels.
“The project is completely in compliance,” said Martha Staskus of Georgia Mountain Community Wind. “All of the post operational monitoring that has been conducted to date has been in compliance with the board’s ruling.”
“They have challenged and raised questions that I don’t think are reasonable from the get go,” Staskus said.
Without any recent home sales to compare, Georgia’s six-member Board of Civil Authority was hard pressed to come up with an accurate yardstick for the reassessment.
“I think I spent anywhere from four to six visits to the McLanes, very early in the morning having coffee on their porch,” said Don Vickers of the Georgia Board of Civil Authority.
In the end, the members unanimously agreed that the sound of the turbines– any sound– was enough.
“It’s a noise that’s a constant sort of noise. I once described it as if you’re on a coastline and way off in the distance, there’s a freighter going by and you hear the engine going– chug, chug, chug. That’s the kind of noise that you experience,” Vickers explained.
The board used a recent study of noise impacts on homeowners near the Burlington airport as a model to determine the reassessment.
State officials say there are no examples of homeowners in proximity to Vermont wind farms that have had their properties lose value after being reassessed. And industry officials cite national studies that also back that up.
With the towers not going anywhere, the McLanes admit there are not a lot of options they have.
“It’s nice to have somebody of some authority finally acknowledge the fact that property values are affected– adversely effected,” Melodie said.
The other couple’s home near the McLanes lost about $30,000 of its assessed value.
[video, photographs at source]
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