April 09, 2012
A Wolfe Island coupleʼs argument that nearby wind turbines significantly
decreased their homeʼs value has been rejected by Ontarioʼs assessment
The appeal by Ed and Gail Kenney was being closely watched in rural
Ontario, where turbine developments have provoked both support and
opposition in local communities.
But the board said the Kenneys had failed to prove that the turbines scattered
around their waterfront home have reduced its value.
“Weʼre incredibly disappointed,” Ed Kenney said in an interview.
“Weʼre not dissuaded,” he said. “We have concerns that our rights to fair and
unbiased representation in the face of a province completely driven by the
current agenda have been trampled.”
MPAC, the Municipal Property Assessment Corp., assessed the property
near Kingston, Ont., at $357,000 in 2009.
That was up from the earlier level of $200,000, which had been set before a major wind power development came to Wolfe Island.
The Kenneys, both in their 70s, have been fighting the assessment ever since.
There are three turbines within a kilometre of their home, and 27 within three kilometres. Wolfe Island has 86 turbines in all, concentrated on the west end of the island, where they catch the winds sweeping the length of Lake Ontario.
The Kenneys say noise from the turbines forces them to keep their windows closed, even in summer.
They say the sound ranges from a low swoosh to the noise made by a jet plane flying overhead — but one that never passes.
But MPAC told the review board that proximity to wind turbines is not built into the model the corporation uses to assess properties.
While the Kenneys — who represented themselves at the hearings — said both their health and property values were affected by the turbines and their noise, the review board rejected their pleas.
“The board finds there is no evidence before this panel of the board to show the effect, if any, that these concerns have had on the current value of the Kenneysʼ property.”
The sides had informal talks about a possible settlement during the hearings, Ed Kenney said, but MPAC had insisted that any settlement agreement should have no mention of wind turbines. In the end, no agreement was reached and the case was decided by a two-member review board panel.
The Kenneys are considering whether to appeal the decision, which he says contains factual errors. For example, he said, it refers to his 0.72-acre property as a “farm.” It also says the property has a barn and a detached garage. Kenney says he has neither. The case would go to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
John Andrew, real estate professor at Queenʼs Universityʼs School of Business, said the decision by the review board isnʼt surprising.
Putting a value on external factors like wind turbines, a nearby airport, or concentrations of student housing can be tricky, he said in an interview.
“People could run to MPAC and say: ʻHey, Iʼve got a whole bunch of student houses on my street and theyʼre partying ʼtil one in the morning and my property value should reflect that,ʼ ” Andrew said.
The marketplace does actually price those factors in for properties where there are lots of sales, he said.
But thatʼs not necessarily the case with wind turbines.
“When youʼre talking about a rural community with very few transactions, thereʼs no mechanism for the market to price that properly,” Andrew said. “It would have been a slippery slope. It would have opened the floodgates for a whole bunch of appeals.”