Residents of towns where industrial sized wind and/or solar energy projects are proposed are overwhelmed with information from the developers, opponents, and the Internet. The difficulty is figuring out how the proposed project will affect one’s own life and property, the neighbors and the rest of the town. There are so many variables due to geography, sight lines, wind speed, noise convection, etc. that it sometimes seems impossible to figure out the impact of a proposed project. In assessing the pros and cons, each person and town should try to find out the circumstances behind each “fact” thrown out by both sides. All can be true or partly true, but without knowing the context, we don’t know how much weight to give that fact in our decisions. One of many examples where a fact is only part of the true picture is the question of possible loss of property values for homes within sight and/or sound of wind turbines.
The developer of a proposed wind turbine project (one turbine @ 450 ft. tall including blade) in Holland has made available to the public a sheet entitled Wind Power Facts. One section is entitled “Wind Power Does Not Affect Property Values”, citing conclusions to that effect from studies on the national level. Industrial wind installations are located in a variety of locations nationwide, most of which are totally different from the Northeast Kingdom. The developer’s fact sheet for Holland also states that since 1995, the 4 industrial wind developments in or adjacent to 8 towns in Vermont have resulted in only 3 properties having their assessed values reduced. All 3 properties were in Georgia, VT, and one of these sold for $86,000 more than its recently-reduced assessed value. This information suggests that perhaps the developer’s conclusion is correct: industrial wind installations do not adversely affect property values. However, it is not at all clear that residents of Holland can count on Georgia’s experience to preserve our property values, whether we eventually need to either sell our property or pass it on to our children.
Even without an industrial sized wind or solar installation in the vicinity, a large number of factors enter into the assessed value (for taxes) and the actual sale price of a home. Some of these result from the location within the town, the condition and appearance of houses next door, to the house’s location in a larger geographic region. Holland is very different from Georgia, economically and demographically. Most significantly, since 1967 Georgia has had zoning. Georgia currently has 11 zoning districts, described at length on the town’s website. In a phone call, the Georgia town clerk’s office informed me that the Georgia Mountain wind turbine installation is in the “industrial” zone. Due to the zoning, anyone looking to buy a home in Georgia is assured that future industrial wind or similar installations will be confined to a particular area of town, known in advance. However, Holland and many other towns in the Northeast Kingdom have no zoning, and if the Vermont Public Service Board approves, a 450-ft. tall wind turbine can go on your immediate neighbor’s land, next to or across the road from your property or anywhere else in town. This possibility has a direct effect on the desirability of your property, to you and to potential buyers.
Georgia’s location, between the major job markets of Burlington and St. Albans, is another significant difference. Proximity to major sources of employment has a significant effect on property values and on the mix of property types in the town. In Georgia’s most recent town plan (2011) the chapter “Housing Characteristics” states that it is, in part, a bedroom community for regional job centers. As such, the majority of its housing stock (77% in 2005-2009) is single family units occupied year-round. It’s “second home” component is “consistent with the state average” (10% seasonal in 2005-2009). In the chapter on Property-Development trends, the town plan states that in 2010, 76% of the properties were residential, 8% were vacation homes, 2% were “farm/open”, 3% were commercial/ industrial, and 11% were “other.” In contrast, Holland’s 2015 Annual Report states that as of April 1, 2015, out of a total of 510 parcels in Holland, 236 were “residential properties” (i.e., occupied year round), 23 were mobile homes, 136 were vacation homes, and 14 were working farms. Other small categories included 1 each of commercial and utility properties, and 5 woodland properties (without a residence). Ninety-four (94) were “miscellaneous”. Thus, of the total of 510 properties in Holland, 136, or 27%, were second homes, underscoring Holland’s value as a desirable place to “get away”. In contrast, only 8% of Georgia’s properties in 2011 were “vacation” or second homes.
These statistics, and the fact that Georgia has zoning and Holland does not, show that the sale of one house in Georgia for far more than its assessed value is of little use in predicting the effect that one or more industrial wind turbines will have on property values in Holland.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding