Effects will take time
On Feb. 16, Steve Schleiker, El Paso County assessor, presented a report to the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners regarding the data he has collected on home and property sales near the Golden West Wind Farm Project in Calhan.
In that report, Schleiker cited data related to home and property sales from Jan. 1, 2015, to Dec. 31, 2015. In a separate interview with The New Falcon Herald, he said, “I tracked the sales from within the transmission line corridor and the actual map of the wind farm. I also included a 2-mile buffer outside that area.”
Schleiker said he had specifically told residents in the county that he would study the data to determine any effects on sales from the 145 turbines and the 29-mile transmission line constructed by NextEra Energy Resources between March and September 2015. The wind farm became fully operational Oct. 12, 2015.
The data showed 816 sales, including agricultural grazing land, commercial, single family residential and vacant lots, that were completed during 2015 in the study area, he said. Of the properties sold, 712 were single family residential properties, and their combined 2015 sales price was more than $42 million above their current assessor market value, he said.
According to the November 2015 issue of The New Falcon Herald, current assessor market values are derived from data gathered between July 1, 2012, and June 30, 2014, prior to the wind farm’s construction. Data regarding home values from July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2016, which will include data from properties sold during and after the wind farm construction, will be included in the May 1, 2017, valuation notices.
“Properties are moving, and they are selling for more than what is currently on our assessor’s records,” Schleiker said. “I am seeing an increase in the mean and median sales price, but it is important to remember that there is still five months more data to be studied. I have to consider that data, too -- and that data is critical.”
Michael McCann, an appraiser from Chicago, Illinois, said he has been researching property values near wind farms for the past 10 years. “It (the data) is pretty consistent,” he said. “From modest price ranges to upscale price ranges, the tendency is 25 percent, up to 40 percent, price reductions.”
McCann said he was hired to appraise a house in June 2011 in Mason County, Michigan, where representatives from the Lake Winds Energy Farm Project had been negotiating leases with property owners; however, they had not yet applied for permits with the county. “The comparable sales did not show an impact even in anticipation of the project,” McCann said. “The market was actually starting to make its way back up.” A 476-foot turbine was built 1,139 feet from the residence, and the 56-turbine Lake Winds Energy Farm Project became fully operational in November 2012, McCann said. “After three years on the market and several price drops, this house ended up being sold for 40 percent of what it was originally worth,” he said.
The same scenario has played out time and again for properties located near wind farms, he said. He cited a study conducted in Livingston County, Illinois, where three wind farm projects are located within 3 miles of the Livingston County and Woodford County, Illinois, border. The study used paired sales, which is comparing houses essentially the same, except for one or two issues that make the price difference easily attributable, McCann said. It showed that, on average, homes located closer to the project sold for about 25 percent less than their paired counterparts, he said.
A case study published in February 2013, conducted by Ben Lansink, an appraiser located in Ontario, Canada, focused on the Melanchthon Wind Facility. The facility consists of 133 turbines and is located 67 miles from Toronto, the study indicates. Lansink found that homes within 2 miles of the wind turbines, on average, sold for 38 percent less than homes farther away. The facility has a 2-mile footprint, and homes within that area sold for about 58 percent less, according to the study.
Joe Cobb, a Calhan resident who lives within the Golden West Wind Farm’s footprint, said he thinks the turbines are taking a physical toll on his property, which, in turn, will hurt its resale value. The concrete in front of his garage has dropped 2 inches, the mitered joints around the window frames and door jambs are coming out and the nails are backing out of the woodwork all around his house, he said. Additionally, the grout in the tiled backsplash Cobb installed in his kitchen is cracking between the tiles, especially near the window, he said.
Cobb said he and his family have lived in the house for more than eight years, and everything was in pristine shape when they moved in. The damage only appeared after the turbines began operating in October, he said.
“Our theory is that the vibrations coming off the turbines is kind of like a slow-motion earthquake,” he said. “The house is basically being vibrated all the time. It seems like the house is slowly shaking apart.”
Robert Rand, an acoustic engineer from Boulder, Colorado, said wind turbines like those in Calhan produce pulses, called infrasonic pressure pulsations. The pulsations penetrate the earth because they are so large, he said. “The instruments I use to measure infrasonic pressure pulsations are the same ones that are used to measure earthquakes,” he said.
Schleiker said his data is still preliminary, and he will continue to study the values of the properties in and around the wind farm. “I will absolutely share all my data with the property owners and the county commissioners,” he said.