Dakota Power Community Wind LLC has filed 132 “Wind Option & Development Easements” in Lincoln County.
These easements are an agreement with landowners to place wind turbines on their land.
In March, Dakota Power Community Wind LLC representatives asked Union County Commissioners for their blessing of their proposed wind farm project, which has a goal of 500 wind turbines. Each turbine with an access road takes 1 acre of land.
Now, Union County landowners near Akron are being asked to enter into these agreements for the placement of a wind turbines on their farm land.
Dakota Power Community Wind LLC is receiving opposition to its project from Wind Energy Concerns About Rural Environment (WE-CARE), a coalition of landowners representing residents in southern Lincoln County who desire stopping this wind farm project.
On Aug. 3 and 4, WE-CARE held forums in Canton and Beresford, S.D., with nationally-known independent appraiser Michael S. McCann of Chicago, Ill., who conducts property value impact studies and has testified as an expert witness in more than 21 state and federal courts. One of his areas of study is wind project impacts.
McCann conducted an impact study of Dakota Power Community Wind LLC’s proposed project, which included reviewing Lincoln County’s zoning ordinances; the character of the proposed project, and wind farm reported impacts, nuisance factors and stigma typically associated with nearby wind projects and established impacts on residential and agricultural uses. He also reviewed various wind industry’s studies.
The purpose in Lincoln County’s Revised Zoning Ordinance is: “The regulations are intended to preserve and protect existing property uses and values against adverse or unharmonious adjacent uses.”
The zoning code does allow wind energy conversion systems (wind farms), and part of the (Conditional Use) criteria is it must protect the health, safety and welfare of the people, said McCann.
“I’ve heard testimony from I can’t tell you how many residents who lived near projects, engineers, medical people, and so forth and I can tell you there is significant amount of information that wind industry or developers will not tell you about,” said McCann.
For instance, setbacks. Wind industry spokespersons will say “our setbacks are safe enough and it’s an acceptable risk,” said McCann, “and oftentimes it really isn’t when considering blade throw or ice throw.”
While setbacks are usually from the property line, the wind industry is allowed to have setbacks from a building such as a house. Lincoln County’s is 1,500 from any habitable structure.
Lincoln County’s zoning also allows shadow flickers up to 30 hours a year. A shadow flicker is when the sun is behind the turbine and is in a direct line with a dwelling, said McCann. The flickering is similar to a strobe light – coming into the home.
“The people I have talked to who have actually experienced this have found it to be more than a nuisance, a very objectionable nuisance,” said McCann.
“I don’t think casting shadows or noise or those things have proven out in the (real estate) market to be compatible,” said McCann. “The intensity, density and scale of these facilities and the fact that they run 24 hours a day seven days a week just creates so much potential and reality in the market for conflicts that it pretty much eliminates its compatibility at the size of scale and distances they are proposing.”
Lincoln County’s conditional use criteria includes that a use does not alter the general character of any area.
“One or two turbines might not alter the general character of the area except in the immediate area but 500 turbines overlaying a good part of Lincoln County and extending down into Union County…will change the character of the area pretty conservatively,” said McCann who then went through several case studies.
In conclusion: Setbacks of less than 3 miles are inadequate to avoid significant loss of property value, or impaired use and enjoyment of neighboring property, said McCann.
￼In addition, if the county ordinance’s minimum setback is allowed, the most proximate residential properties will experience a range of value impact from 25 to 40 percent loss. The minimum setback does not meet the requirements of the Lincoln County Zoning Ordinance with respect to Conditional Use, real estate value and compatibility related issues.
There is market resistance to buying a home in an overwhelming, dominating industrial setting, and sellers often under duress, due to noise, health impacts, nuisance and “invasion” of turbine impacts, said McCann. Discounts derived from market are comparable to other duress conditions, i.e., foreclosure sale, liquidation, estate sale with short marketing, or trying to sell undesirable or “problem” property.
According to McCann, the ordinance could be revised to include “appropriate conditions” of:
• Height: Although 400 – 500 ft. is typically proposed, wind energy can be generated with much less height.
• Hours of Operation: 24/7 typically is proposed while most nuisance, noise and health complaints are during normal sleep hours.
• Setbacks: Industry claims “standards” of 1⁄4 mile or less while experience proves these are too close, via property value diminution, noise, flicker, aesthetics, health complaints, blade/ice “throw”, etc.
• Temporary shutdown during flickering periods: 30 hours of flicker impairs use, enjoyment and property rights.
McCann advocated for a Property Value Guarantee, which left property owners with “whole” value, regardless of whether they sell or stay. The Property Value Guarantee should have no hurdles to being included, be available for second homes and agricultural land.
Furthermore, the Property Value Guarantee should have a buyout provision in the event that a property is unmarketable after “typical” marketing period for an area with no turbines visible.
McCann suggested the Property Value Guarantee be administered by an unbiased third party such as a panel appointed by county officials. Panel members may be a retired judge, lawyer and professional appraiser.
This guarantee should automatically include property within 3 mile range of a turbine and the range should be extended if noise nuisance is reported by property owner or occupant and measured by independent acoustician retained by the panel.
Bonding and/or insurance should be mandated in the guarantee to cover at least 25 percent of the property value within 3 miles of a turbine.
The guarantee should also include language to prevent need for neighbors to file litigation. In other words, the panel should be final arbitration.
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