KINGSTON – A study commissioned by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center indicates that despite claims to the contrary it cannot be demonstrated statistically that wind turbines affect nearby home prices.
Critics say the findings of this new study are misleading. Some residents are angry that the study has been posted to the town’s website.
The report on home values within half a mile of operating wind turbines was originally posted on the town of Kingston homepage Jan. 9. Last week it was removed from that page. It can still be found on the Planning Department homepage under wind turbines.
Town Planner Tom Bott said he posted the report on the Planning Board’s homepage after it was sent to him by MassCEC. He said the findings have been peer reviewed and that he believes the results should be made available to the public.
Bott said the study was conducted by a nationally recognized laboratory, the Lawrence Berkely National Laboratory, and the respected University of Connecticut, and serves as a source of valuable information. The Assessor’s Department will review the study.
The report analyzed more than 122,000 home sales, between 1998 and 2012, that occurred near the current or future location of 41 turbines in densely populated Massachusetts communities. This includes both urban and suburban areas.
“Although the study found the effects from a variety of negative features (such as electricity transmission lines and major roads) and positive features (such as open space and beaches) generally accorded with previous studies, the study found no net effects due to the arrival of turbines in the sample’s communities,” the study states. “Weak evidence suggests that the announcement of the wind facilities had a modest adverse impact on home prices, but those effects were no longer apparent after turbine construction and eventual operation commenced. The analysis also showed no unique impact on the rate of home sales near wind turbines.”
Leland Road residents Doreen and Sean Reilly say they are horrified that the report they say is based on a biased study has been posted on the town website. They claim that the conclusion that home values are not impacted is false because they know many families who have had difficulties selling their homes or have taken a loss when they have sold.
Wednesday, Jan. 22, the Reillys jointly sent a letter of complaint to Town Administrator Robert Fennessy and Board of Selectmen Chairman Elaine Fiore. Reilly said Wednesday she was waiting for a response.
The Reillys say the study is an example of the kind of questionable information that has been posted to the website in the past and should be removed.
“We respectfully request that this pro wind turbine propaganda be removed immediately, and in the future, any information regarding wind turbines be factual and does not falsely marginalize the negative impacts that my family and I are experiencing due to shadow flicker strobing and invasive noise when the Independence wind turbine is operating at or near max power output,” they wrote.
Virginia Irvine, the president of Wind Wise Massachusetts, disputes the validity of the study. She shared her conclusions.
“Real estate agents, nationally-recognized appraisers and independent researchers, and local homeowners seriously question the accuracy and the validity of the MassCEC-funded study,” she said. “How can anyone take seriously a study that neither used accepted appraisal methodology nor identified even a single property sale.”
She said the home sales data that is used is very misleading, because only a miniscule number of those transactions were likely to have been affected by nearby turbines. She said an independent study of the impact of the turbines on home values in Falmouth showed that those near the turbines saw the value of their homes plummet by 15 percent to 40 percent.
She also noted a London School of Economics Study that found that the value of homes near turbines had decreased an average of 11 percent.
“If the MassCEC was really interested in obtaining reliable information, they could have saved taxpayers the $70,000 it cost to fund the study by simply using Multiple Listing Service Data (MLS) which includes sale and price ratio data, as well as expired and cancelled listing comparisons for homes that no one would buy,” she said.
“The simple fact is that the MassCEC funded a study that was designed to support the primary reason it was created: to support wind turbines and other alternative energy programs. The mission statement didn’t say ‘at any price.'”
MassCEC stands by the results of the study. Jeremy McDiarmid, senior director for innovation and industry support, said it was conducted by high caliber independent researchers and has been peer reviewed by academics in the field.
He said the goal of MassCEC was to respond to concerns from communities in Massachusetts about the impact of wind turbines on home values. He said it can be used as a resource for communities involved in wind turbine discussions but does not address specific properties or projects.
He said the study looked for patterns to show that turbines impact home prices but that there was no statistically significant impact on homes within half a mile of turbines.
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