A Wolfe Island couple learned late in 2013 that a re-evaluation of their cottage property, based in part on their proximity to wind turbines, would not result in an assessment reduction.
It was a last ray of hope for Ed and Gail Kenney, who had also unsuccessfully challenged the property value of their home before a Municipal Property Assessment Corporation tribunal, claiming it had been devalued since the construction of the 86-turbine project on the island.
The couple have not been alone in their efforts.
In the west end of the province, Goderich landowner Dave Hemingway got a similar letter from MPAC concerning a reassessment of 80 acres of his family farmland.
Hemingway, who is also chairman of the anti-turbine group SWEAR (Safe Wind Energy for All Residents), was skeptical of the review all along.
A University of Waterloo study released last October, he said, found that health and sleep problems were more prevalent in people the closer they live to turbines.
MPAC, on the other hand, uses “regression modelling” in its assessments.
It looks at the sale prices of similar homes within a certain distance of the property being assessed – then widens that search to assemble a large enough sampling.
“When you go further away from the turbines, the issues aren’t as great,” said Hemingway.
“They don’t take into account properties that don’t sell. Properties close to turbines don’t sell.”
MPAC informed the Hemingways and Kenneys that the assessments of their second properties would be based on a new study of industrial wind turbines it conducted.
However, the guidelines have never been made public, though MPAC officials say a report summarizing the results of the study will be released this year.
That makes Hemingway suspicious.
“It’s taken over two months to put the right spin on it,” he said.
MPAC’s general guidelines for assessments consider five major factors: lot size, living area, age of the property, renovations and additions and quality of construction.
They may also include number of bathrooms, pools and water frontage.
All of these are compared to the sales of comparable properties.
Until last year, wind turbines were not officially considered.
Like the Kenneys, Hemingway also has appealed to the tribunal to reduce the assessment on his home and four-acre property.
Unlike the Kenneys, he is challenging his assessment based on a 100-turbine project that has yet to be constructed on a property next door.
“Does the turbine have to be there before the property is devalued? We say not. People buy property based on perception,” said Hemingway.
“I have four real estate people that will testify that people hear about wind turbine farms and they back off (purchasing).”
Hemingway believes 2014 could be an important year for groups opposing industrial wind turbines.
There are ongoing battles against turbine projects in the Picton area and on Amherst Island and in Loyalist Township.
Hemingway said there are Charter of Rights challenges calling on the courts to end the gag orders on landowners who accept deals to sell their properties to turbine companies.
And so far, he said, about 18 western Ontario farmers have been convinced to end their lease agreements.
“They’re not just leasing one acre. They lose control of their farm,” said Hemingway. “They’re not being told about possible health effects.”
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