Ontario wind power bringing down property values
September 30, 2011
John Nicol and Dave Seglins
For the complete article, click here.
OK, this one is going to take some time to correct, because there are so many areas where the reporters have just trusted their tipster. Let's take it apart, error by error:
The CBC has documented scores of families who've discovered their property values are not only going downward, but also some who are unable to sell and have even abandoned their homes because of concerns nearby turbines are affecting their health.
"Score" means twenty. "Scores" would therefore mean more than twenty, implying 40, 60, 80 or more. MPAC, the agency charged with establishing facts-based appraisals for municipalities says that only about twenty (i.e. one score) properties have sold in close proximity to wind farms. And they're saying that there is no discernible effect of turbines on property values. A post-graduate thesis at the University of Guelph proved the same point (ironically, it was partially funded by an anti-wind activist). Professional appraisals were performed in Chatham-Kent, Melancthon and the Wolfe Island area and yielded similar results. I'm willing to hypothesize that recent hysteria may have changed things somewhat, but where's the new data that the CBC claim?
Next, CBC turns to a number of anecdotal cases, all from two areas (Clear Creek and Melancthon), and all from the anti-wind movement. Now then, to be fair, if one believed that turbines could cause a drop in value, it makes sense that they might also be anti-wind.
Stephana Johnston, Clear Creek
Ms. Johnston has been an anti-wind activist certainly since 2009. She's on the Board of Directors of Wind Concerns Ontario and has posted on their blog almost forty times (that's two score). She's been very vocal in claiming that wind turbines have caused her adverse health effects, as quoted in the CBC article:
Johnston says she has suffered so many ill health effects, including an inability to sleep — which she believes stem from the noise and vibration of the turbines— that she now sleeps on a couch in her son's trailer, 12 kilometres away, and only returns to her house to eat breakfast and dinner and use the internet.
Of course, statements like that don't help with her property values, as noted by one of comments attached to the article:
Also, Stephana Johnston, 81 has now guaranteed no one will buy her house as she's publicly stated that the turbines make it impossible to sleep there.
Kay Armstrong, Clear Creek
Ms Armstrong has also been an anti-wind activist since 2009. She may be best known for her public letter where she asks:
"Why is AIM Power Generation reaping in these profits while I am approaching bankruptcy" (Woodstock Sentinal Review, July 31, 2009)
The public disclosure of her belief that wind turbines have caused her symptoms may also have created a self-fulfilling prophecy:
"I had to get out," said Armstrong. "It was getting so, so bad. And I had to disclose the health issues I had. I was told by two prominent lawyers that I would be sued if the ensuing purchasers were to develop health problems."
Tracy Whitmore, Clear Creek
Ms. Whitmore is another one the neighbours joining forces with Ms. Johnston and Ms. Armstrong. Here's an account of their history from the Delhi News-Record:
Initially, Johnston and several residents objected to the massive wind turbine project due to its potential impact on migratory birds. They formed an advocacy group, first unsuccessfully appearing before Norfolk council and later unsuccessfully appealing to the Ontario Municipal Board in 2005.
Slowly, the 18 industrial wind turbines came onboard in sets. However, the adverse health reactions didn’t start to be unleashed until the final Clear Creek set came online, Johnston said. She remembers the exact date — Nov. 22, 2008.
“That’s when the effect — the full effect of all 18 — affected us,” she said.
Over time, neighbours began to compare symptoms and eventually met at Johnston’s house. Some of these residents have now gone on to form the Norfolk Victims of Industrial Wind Turbines, chronicling their health issues and advocating for relief.
Since then, the three rented an apartment in Delhi for awhile, ostensibly as an overnight retreat.
CBC then proceeds to quote two real estate brokers, Ron VandenBussche and Chris Luxemburger. Vandenbussche, headquartered in Simcoe, has no listings within 20 or 30km of Clear Creek. Luxemburger, headquartered in Orangeville, has a few listings in the Melancthon area. Neither one is an accredited appraiser with the Appraisal Institute of Canada. Luxemburger is quoted as saying:
"Homes inside the windmill zones were selling for less and taking longer to sell than the homes outside the windmill zones," said Luxemburger.
On average, from 2007 to 2010, he says properties adjacent to turbines sold for between 20 and 40 per cent less than comparable properties that were out of sight from the windmills.
Luxemburger is also an active aviation enthusiast and pilot. He has presented this real estate valuation argument, along with his views on aviation safety, to municipal councils as the basis for his opposition to wind turbines.
Two separate real estate appraisals, both by accredited appraisers, reached the conclusion that there was no association between property values and turbines in roughly the same timeframe. The University of Guelph study mentioned earlier reached the same conclusions.
The difference between the opinions of Luxemburger and the analysis of the appraisers probably stems from the fact that, in the former, the properties that were "out of sight from the windmills" were also 30km closer to Orangeville, and were increasingly attractive as commuting residences.
Next, CBC drags out the six properties that we looked at in Part 2. Except, they only look at four of them. As we pointed out earlier, the purchase of two of these homes was based on "good neighbour" policies and the others were based on optimizing the layout of the wind farm. Not surprisingly, the first two properties were paid a premium over market. The others sold much closer to market. However, the market does move over time and so when a property was purchased before the financial collapse in the fall of 2008 and then sold after the collapse, bad things happen. So, CHD could be accused of buying high and selling low, but they used the residences for their employees and contractors during that time frame rather than picking the perfect time to sell.
Understandably, CHD required buyers to acknowledge that they knew the full circumstances surrounding the sale and wouldn't try to "do well", as CBC described the first sale.
As one commentator to the article asked:
I would like to know how the people who bought these properties at a reduced price are making out? Why not ask them for a follow up story?
Good question. Why not also talk to the hundreds of people who live in the area and sleep very well at night.
Finally, CBC quotes an Environmental Ministry lawyer, Frederika Rotter:
"We will see in the course of this hearing that lots of people are worried about windmills. They may not like the noise, they may think the noise makes them sick, but really what makes them sick is just the windmills being on the land because it does impact their property values.
"That's what makes them sick is that, you know, they'll get less money for their properties, and that's what's causing all this annoyance and frustration and all of that."
In my opinion, she should have said that some people perceive that turbines will cause a drop in value. She's living proof that the perception has now become widely held, even though it hasn't been historically true.
And of course, once people believe that turbines affect property values - they will.
More on this in Part 4.