Wind and Property Values

The Assessment Review Board of Ontario recently made a ruling on an appeal of property tax assessment on the Kenney case on Wolfe Island. The Kenney’s had argued that the value of their waterfront property had diminished due to the installation of the Wolfe Island Wind Farm. The case was dismissed. The Board found that there was a lack of evidence that property values are adversely affected by a wind farm.

The board hearing lasted for an amazingly long 6 days, and much evidence was heard. Of course valuations of rural properties are always difficult. Unlike a residential subdivision, or a condo, where there are numerous sales of similar homes with similar characteristics, rural properties often have unique characteristics, and a thin market, with few property sales. But assessing property is what the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC), and the Review Board have to do all the time. They have considerable experience assessing properties.

The Kenney’s home is 1 km away from the nearest turbine, and is located on western lake front, which would be the source of considerable noise from the prevailing wind and waves. The Kenney’s submitted all the usual complaints that the anti wind people use – lights, flicker, noise, illness etc. Ms. Kenney is the chair of the local anti wind group. But the evidence presented by the Township and by MPAC about property values was far stronger. There is no evidence that wind farms reduce property values.

Part of the evidence included some photographs of the wind turbines taken from the Kenney’s sunroom. The Board noted: “Although Ms. Kenney testified that her views were obstructed, no photographs were introduced of their uninterrupted view of the lake.” They went on: “While the Kenneys did submit a photograph (Page 6, Exhibit 14) taken from a boat out on the Bateau Channel showing the Island windmills in the background, the Board is not satisfied that the Kenneys’ enjoyment of their property is from a boat on Lake Ontario.” It is good to see the Board has a bit of a sense of humour.

The Board looked at the limited number of sales since the assessment date, which was Jan 1, 2008. They also looked at the basis of the assessment, which was the limited number of sales in 2005-2007. In both cases, the evidence presented was strong, but as is always the case with unique rural property, was based on limited data. Nonetheless the valuation on the property was appropriate based on the data set available. Property continues to sell on the Island, and does not show evidence of a slowdown. The Board said: “The sales evidence confirms that waterfront properties on the Island have continued to sell since the approval, operation, and construction of the wind farms.”

More compelling evidence came from the experience in two other wind farms, the Melancthon wind farm near Shelburne, and the Erie Shores wind farm near Port Burwell. Properties located abutting and near these wind farms were identified, and the value of the sale of any of the properties was determined. The evidence according the Board shows: “The Board finds that there is nothing in the MPAC evidence of sales in proximity to or abutting wind farms to lead to the conclusion that property values …..have been adversely affected by the wind farm.”

One of the more interesting arguments presented by the Kenney’s was that the access to the island by ferry had become too congested since the wind farm was built, and that this congestion has had a negative effect on property values. Of course this argument is contrary to what the anti wind crowd often espouses – that wind farms drive away tourists. Indeed, the evidence presented argues just the opposite. More people are going to Wolfe Island to see the wind farm. As Yogi Berra said, “No wonder nobody ever goes to that restaurant. It’s always too busy.”

Overall, the case is important. It demonstrates that when objective people review real evidence, they conclude that wind farms do not negatively affect property values of nearby properties.

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