Gone with the wind
By John Miner, The London Free Press
Homeowners close to wind turbines can expect to see much of their property values blown away, a provocative study by a London property appraiser has found. Sellers in the future could even find their properties are worth nothing, says the study by Ben Lansink of Lansink Appraisals and Consulting.
“If there is no buyer, there may be no value,” Lansink concluded. Industrial wind turbines have become a huge sore point for many in Ontario, with about 1,200 of the often-unwanted behemoths now in operation now and with the province having signed deals that will more than double that number in the next couple of years.
Lansink, who’s been qualified as a real estate expert in court proceedings, analyzed properties in the Shelburne area, north of Orangeville, home to Ontario’s first major industrial wind farm — the 133-turbine Melancthon Wind Facility.
He found five homes that had been bought by the wind farm developer, Canadian Hydro Developments, a subsidiary of Calgary-based TransAlta, at fair market value. Canadian Hydro later put those houses back on the market and they sold for an average loss of 38%. One brought 58.5% less.
“The erection of a wind turbine creates apprehension in the general public, which makes property less desirable and thus diminishes the prices of neighbouring property,” Lansink said.
The implications extend beyond individual land owners, Lansink said in an interview.
Other taxpayers in a municipality with wind turbines can expect to see their taxes go up to make up for the dropping property assessment of the turbine area, he said.
“Municipalities are going to suffer big-time. They are going to lose their tax base,” Lansink said.
Then, there are the lawsuits.
Some property owners next to wind turbines have already started suing their neighbours, wind farm companies and the province for loss of value and inability to sell their property.
Lansink’s study contradicts the findings of a 2010 study widely touted by the wind turbine industry that looked at land values in Chatham-Kent, another hotbed for wind-farm development.
Prepared by London real estate appraisers George Canning and John Simmons, that study concluded wind turbines didn’t bring down property values.
Their study looked at sales of properties within sight of wind turbines and a control area.
In tracing the sale of individual properties, Lansink looked at residences.
He was stunned to find easements attached to the deeds by the wind-turbine developer that said the company agrees the operation of the wind turbines may affect the living environment of the buyer.
Problems noted on the deed included heat, sound, vibration, shadow, flickering of light and noise.
The buyer agreed they couldn’t take legal action against the wind farm for any of the problems.
“They’ve told the world, ‘yes there are problems and here are the problems.’ That was a startling find from an appraisers point of view,” Lansink said.
Just nine years ago, when Ontario’s Liberal government swept to power, the province had only 10 wind turbines.
The province — the government has heavily pushed wind power, taking away local control over where they can be built and offering huge premiums for the power generated — has since outstripped the rest of Canada in generating capacity from wind farms.
Many of the giant towers dwarf nearby buildings, standing — highrise-like — 80 to 100 metres in height.
Canadian Hydro Developers bought the following sites at market value while developing industrial wind turbines nearby, then sold them after the project was completed. How resale values changed:
How resale values changed:
Dwelling and quonset (large outbuilding), 100 acres
580 m from turbine
Bought: Oct. 2007 for $350,000
Sold: Nov. 2010 for $175,000
2,500 sq.-ft., 3-bedroom, Cape Cod-style house, 1.8 acres
816 m from 2 wind turbines
Bought: Nov. 2007 for $500,000
Sold: Dec. 2009 for $288,400
2-storey, 3-bedroom home, 10-acre site
200 m from turbine
Bought: Jan. 2007 for $305,000
Sold: Sold Aug. 2009 for $278,000
3-bedroom bungalow, 1 acre
330 m from turbine
Bought: Aug. 2007 for $302,670
Sold: April 2010 for $215,000
REACTION TO THE STUDY
Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario, a group opposed to wind farm development, said earlier studies pegged the drop in property values at 18 to 37%. Lansink found drops of 23 to 58%.
“Mr. Lansink’s work is certainly in line with the research we are seeing,” she said.
Wind Concerns Ontario is worried for people who bought property and were counting on it to increase in value for their retirement.
Jutta Splettstoesser, president of Friends of Wind Ontario, a group backing wind farm development, said a number of studies on property values and wind turbines have indicated that, if there’s any change in values, it’s only temporary. In Europe, studies have found no negative effect of turbines on property values, she said.
“What I worry about is that with the property values it is almost initiated by the wind opponents coming in with signs and attention on possible negative effects of wind turbines. It is almost a created problem.”