The Sheffield family that claims a nearby wind project affects their health and is ruining their family home has taken their fight to the tax man.
Steven and Luann Therrien are appealing their property appraisal, arguing the impact of the First Wind turbines reduces the value of their property, makes it almost impossible to sell and affects their quality of life significantly. The Therriens, though, are caught in a dilemma by trying to convince town officials their property has been overvalued by the town listers while simultaneously trying to sell their property for more than that appraised value.
The Therriens are trying to convince the Sheffield Board of Civil Authority that the wind towers next door make their Duck Pond Road property worth less than the $86,900 value placed on it by the Sheffield Listers. The Sheffield Board of Civil Authority, consisting of the board of selectmen and the town justices of the peace, began the appeal process at a hearing Wednesday night.
This is the first time the Sheffield officials will consider if the wind farm negatively impacts the value of adjacent property.
Before deliberating, the BCA in attendance -- Town Clerk William St. Peter, selectmen Walter Smith and Max Aldrich and Justice of the Peace Gay Ellis -- agreed they should visit the Therrien property, preferably when the wind is blowing and the turbines are turning, to see firsthand the proximity of the towers to the property and to experience any disturbances created by the towers.
Realizing there was no certain date when the four could attend together and be guaranteed a windy day, the group decided each member would visit the site individually, checking beforehand to see if the turbines were turning. The four members would then visit the site as a body on Sept. 17, gathering at the town offices at 3:30 p.m. The board agreed to meet to deliberate on the appeal on Oct. 1 at 5 p.m. at the town offices, prior to the regularly scheduled selectmen's meeting.
Steven told the BCA members, "Nobody in their right mind is going to say, 'I want your property. ... The quality of life used to be quite good, but it's not so much anymore." He told the BCA, "I'll go outside to have a cup of coffee and I'll be hit with the noise and I can't stand it." He conceded the interstate highway that parallels his property also generates noise, adding, "The interstate noise was there before me."
The property consists of a single story, 980-square-foot house with one bedroom, a kitchen and a half-bath, all heated by a space heater. The house is off the grid and sits on 49 acres. The 49 acres are valued at $70,400 with the dwelling and water and sewer services valued at a total of $16,500.
During the meeting, Therrien conceded he had recently listed the property for sale at $125,000, but that listing expired in June.
Selectman Walter Smith also asked Therrien if his wife, Luanne, had written a letter to the editor of The Caledonian-Record stating the couple had asked First Wind to buy their property for $150,000. "You seem to believe it is worth $150,000," said Smith.
Therrien did not directly respond to Smith's comment.
Therrien, in a telephone interview Thursday, said the evidence on wind towers' negative impact on property values is "very, very thin." He added he was encouraged by the response from the Sheffield BCA, saying, "At least our townspeople are open-minded."
The Therriens are angry because of what they believe is an intolerable impact from the First Wind turbines located next door. The Therriens, according to Steven, really want First Wind to buy them out for enough money to move away and buy a comparable piece of land elsewhere.
At the hearing Steven said that it would cost him at least $150,000 to purchase a property similar to the one he has lived on for the last 18 years. Therrien said Thursday that First Wind even bought out a neighbor with a similar piece of property for $190,000 so that the company could use the property during construction of the wind farm.
After the meeting was adjourned, Therrien was asked as he walked out the door if he would be willing to sell his property for its appraised value of $86,900 to a willing buyer. Therrien replied, "I really can't answer that right now."