Wind and worth: Realtors, auditor, study and court ruling weigh in on turbines and property values

Experts disagree about whether the introduction of wind turbines to an area has any impact on property values.

Location, location, location.

It’s a real estate agent’s mantra. In the location of northern Cass County, as many as 150 wind turbines may be popping up on the horizon. While local realtors have yet to had to sell properties in Cass County near turbines, two of them recently provided their perspectives on the issue. An official of a nearby county that a wind facility partially calls home isn’t aware of any property value loss caused by turbines. A New York-based university study claims there’s legitimacy to concerns about turbines and property values. An arm of Wisconsin’s government, backed by a state supreme court ruling, claims there’s not.

Local and area perspectives

Georgie Murray, co-owner of Galloway Murray, a Logansport-based real estate agency, said she doesn’t think whether it’d be difficult to sell a property near a wind turbine “is a moot question.”

“Would I want one next to me?” she asked herself. “No. I guess I think we need some questions answered before this is allowed to happen.”

Bev Spitznogle, a broker with Logansport-based Terra Realty Unlimited, said the marketability of a property near wind turbines would depend on the beliefs of those involved. She supposed turbines would have positive effects for some. There’s an abundance of “turning down opportunities to grow” locally, Spitznogle continued before expressing a desire to see the area economy expand and draw businesses.

“Quit being so negative and let some of these things happen,” she said. “I don’t know a whole lot about turbines. I think they’re beautiful, striking. I see no reason why not to give them a chance.”

Part of the the Wildcat Wind Farm spans across Tipton County. Tipton County Auditor Gregg Townsend said he has not seen evidence of property values decreasing because of the wind facility. He recalled working with the county assessor’s office recently to look at sales disclosures for properties sold at arm’s-length, which Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines as a transaction between parties that are “independent and on equal footing.” 

“I was hard-pressed to find any that sold at a loss,” Townsend said.

Renewable Energy Systems, or RES, is behind the plans for wind turbines in Cass and Miami counties. Brad Lila, development director for the company, maintains wind turbines do not cause property values to decline.

Critics of the project have said if that’s the case, then RES should issue property value guarantees for properties near the project.

“It should be obvious to everyone that property value guarantees are just another attempt by those who oppose this project to increase restrictions to squash industry and economic growth,” Lila said in an email.

Empirical Empire State

A 2011 report on wind turbines and property values by Martin D. Heintzelman and Carrie M. Tuttle with Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York, analyzed property values near wind turbines in the northern part of the state. The analysis drew data from 11,369 arms-length residential and agricultural property transactions between 2000 and 2009 “to explore the effects of relatively new wind facilities.” There were six wind facilities in the study area, which the analysis describes as “a very rural, lightly populated area of small towns and villages that is also less affluent than the state average.”

“Decreasing the distance to the nearest turbine to 1 mile results in a decline in price of between 7.73 percent and 14.87 percent,” the analysis states. “These results indicate that there remains a need to compensate local homeowners/communities for allowing wind development within their borders.”

A total of “3,890 transactions occurred for 1,903 parcels that sold more than once during the study period,” according to the analysis, which goes on to explain that parcels that sold “more than once provide a greater likelihood of observing specific effects from the turbines on sales prior to and after [turbine] installation.”

The analysis also reports “the existence of turbines between up to 1 and 3 miles away negatively impacts property values by between 15.6 percent and 31 percent, while having at least one turbine on the parcel reduces prices by 65 percent.” It adds the latter statistic was derived from only three parcels in the sample having turbines at the time of their sales, however.

The analysis goes on to report on two areas in the sample whose turbines were installed about four years apart. Proximity effects were negative in the area that turbines were installed later in, “but not significant,” the analysis concludes before suggesting it may be because “familiarity with the turbines has diminished their impact.”

The analysis also suggests “non-local buyers are more wary of turbines and their effects than local residents, which may also be a function of familiarity.”

Wind in Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Realtors Association, Wisconsin Builders Association and Wisconsin Towns Association sued the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin in a case over the state’s wind energy rules that made it to the state’s supreme court, which ruled in 2015.

The plaintiffs argued that the public service commission failed to comply with a condition requiring it to have a housing impact report prepared for the Wisconsin Legislature when new rules affect housing in the state, like the plaintiffs claimed the state’s wind energy rules did.

The state supreme court, along with the appellate and trial courts that heard the case before it, ruled in favor of the public service commission. The Supreme Court of Wisconsin ruling indicates the state’s wind energy regulations “do not demonstrate as a matter of law that the rules directly or substantially affect the development, construction, cost or availability of housing in this state.”

The ruling also refers to the Wind Siting Council that the Legislature created to provide research and advice on regulating wind energy systems.

“The Wind Siting Council ultimately concluded that there is no causal relationship between the siting of wind turbines and a measurable change in property values,” the ruling states.

The ruling goes on to refer to a report the public service commission submitted to the Legislature as the wind energy rules were being considered.

“Existing property value studies contain insufficient data to quantify property value impacts to properties one-half mile and closer to turbines,” the ruling cites the report as stating.

The ruling states that the court’s opinion “should not be read to imply” that the frustration over the way the state’s wind energy rules were enacted without requiring a housing impact report “is entirely unwarranted.” But such a report is not required “as a matter of law,” the ruling concluded.

A dissenting opinion in the state supreme court’s decision recalled how the state’s wind energy rules require “periodic review of wind turbines’ effects on health” and how the Legislature “recognized that health effects associated with wind turbines may be connected to the distance between wind turbines and housing...”

“Because wind turbines have the potential to affect the health of those who live nearby, wind turbines also will affect the market for those properties because some buyers will reject the properties because they believe that wind turbines will have a negative effect on their health,” according to the dissenting opinion.


JAN 13 2018
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