By Cheryl Heath, Goderich Signal Star
Shawn Drennan believes a turbine-spotted landscape could lead to a mass exodus. In making a presentation before Huron County Council on May 4, Drennan, who appeared before council to speak on his concerns about wind farms, says his Ashfield Colborne Wawanosh-based family has been following the issue since the start given his home municipality was the first to welcome wind turbines.
From anecdotal evidence and reports from experts like Dr. Geoff Leventhal, Drennan says evidence indicates wind farms have a negative health impact on at least 10 per cent of the population.
In noting that a wind energy company recently outright purchased several homes in the Ripley area, Drennan says the evidence suggests that not only do wind farms cause harm, but they are also viewed negatively in the real estate market. That factor, says Drennan, will lead to a decrease in property value assessments, something that could prove especially troublesome given several of Huron County’s municipalities receive the bulk of their taxation revenues from lakeshore residents.
Drennan went on to cite the property assessment appeal of Amaranth Township resident Paul Thompson who received a 50 per cent reduction on his tax bill because of noise emissions from a transformer station on an adjacent property. The station in question registered a noise level at 40 decibels, the same level as what will be allowable with wind turbines.
One of the ironic aspects of the possible impact of wind farms on the county’s property value assessment base, says Drennan, is turbine assessments are capped by the province so if properties are subject to a significant devaluation, there will be no way for the county to deal with the shortfall other than to deliver significant tax hikes across the board.
Plus, says Drennan, it will be difficult for the county to draw seniors to the region given they will not want to “retire among turbines.”
Drennan also took time out to criticize the provincial government’s mixed messages on the negative factors associated with wind energy projects.
As an example, Drennan notes one area family was interested in buying its own acoustical equipment to gauge the noise emitted by a neighbouring wind project. When the family asked the Ministry of Environment with help siting the equipment, the ministry responded with the answer that there are no scientifically tested procedures to do so.
During a question-and-answer session with council, Coun. Bill Siemon (Huron East) expressed frustration with the provincial government’s ongoing promotion of wind energy as an end to coal-fired plants when not a single plant has closed thanks to wind energy.
Calling it a “vicious circle.” Siemon says it is ironic that a handful of green energy jobs are being created here while thousands of jobs are going to China where coal is still used.
Coun. Brian Barnim (Central Huron) says the main question at the end of the day is whether wind energy developments are a “good deal” for the county.
Barnim says so far it seems wind turbines do not have a positive impact on property assessment values.
“Once a stigma is attached, it’s very hard to get rid of it,” says Barnim, suggesting potential homebuyers are “turned off” by turbines.
Coun. Paul Klopp (Bluewater) says concerns, like the ones expressed by Drennan, deserve further debate at Queen’s Park.
“Wind farms are a great idea, probably, but there are issues,” says Klopp.
Coun. Deb Shewfelt says it appears some councillors “are getting too close” to the issue.
“It is a provincial issue and it should be handed at that level,” says Shewfelt.
Meanwhile, Coun. Art Versteeg (Howick) asked Drennan what his suggestion would be on how to best tackle the issue.
“A moratorium,” says Drennan, adding the wind projects should not be allowed to move forward until the legislated 550-metre setbacks from turbines are proven safe.
“There is no scientifically proven anything,” he says, adding that as a homeowner, “I would be going for a substantial reduction in taxes” once surrounded by turbines.
If a property owner is not benefiting from a lease, says Drennan, they would “be crazy” not to seek a tax break.
Pledging that he will be among the first to appeal his property assessment once turbines flank his property, Drennan says, “Believe me, there will be a line behind me.”
The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation did not respond to queries relating to the number of property assessment appeals in relation to wind developments as of press time.
However, Drennan’s MPAC reference can be found online. According to that MPAC ruling relating to a transformer station placed on an adjacent property in 2005 care of a municipal rezoning: “The MPAC does not dispute that the current value of the subject property is negatively impacted by the noise emitted by the transformer station.” MPAC’s final ruling was as follows: “The Board reduces the CVA of the subject property from $255,000 to $127,000 for the 2008 taxation year.”