Panel denies Wolfe Island couple’s expert witness

By Paul Schliesmann, The Whig Standard

A Wolfe Island couple experienced a setback Wednesday in a hearing to have their property assessment lowered because of nearby wind turbines. Ed and Gail Kenney had hoped to call John Harrison, a retired Queen’s University physics teacher, as an expert witness to back their case.  The Kenneys claim that they are bothered by the constant noise produced by several of the turbines at the 86-turbine wind facility and that they may be suffering ill health because of them.

Instead, the two-person Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) panel hearing the case decided Harrison’s testimony would have been too theoretical.

“What we really need is if you have any evidence as to how the (turbine) noise affects the value of your property,” said panel chair Susan Mather.

A written submission outlining Harrison’s evidence sent up a red flag for lawyer Tony Fleming, representing the Township of Frontenac Islands.

It became clear that Harrison had done no field studies to determine actual sound levels from the turbines as they directly affected the Kenney property, located on the north shore of Wolfe Island facing Simcoe Island and Kingston.

Fleming said, therefore, it was beyond the jurisdiction of the board to hear evidence disputing established government guidelines for turbine noise levels.

Mather agreed, saying: “This is of no assistance to the tribunal to determine the assessment.”

Wednesday’s proceedings were a continuation of two days of testimony from early May on Wolfe Island.

The Kenneys are representing themselves at the hearing, which was moved Wednesday to Mem – orial Hall in Kingston City Hall and will resume there today.

All of Wednesday morning was spent hearing from Gail Kenney, who described the fallout from the 27 turbines placed within 3 km of their home.

“Personally, we have experienced an interruption of our sleep pattern,” she said. “We get up in the night to close windows because we can’t sleep.”

Kenney said she and her husband both suffer tinnitus, a ringing in the ears associated with hearing loss, though she admitted the condition hasn’t been directly connected to the turbine noise they experience.

Even though the turbines may comply with the provincial noise limit of 40 decibels, she said, they should still be considered a nuisance when it comes to the enjoyment of their property and its assessment.

Kenney also noted that while a number of companies and people benefit financially from the wind farm — including owners TransAlta and the landowners who rent their properties for the turbines — they do not.

“As impacted landowners, we were neither consulted nor contacted,” said Kenney. “These parties agreed to setbacks set down in the provincial standards.”

Kenney said they have only registered one formal complaint about noise with TransAlta, in August 2009.

“We were told the noise was wind noise,” she said, explaining why they didn’t bother to call again.

“We’ve been put in a position of having to monitor the noise level which is dependent on the direction of the wind. We never know day to day what to expect. We have no way of testing the noise level for compliance.”

During cross-examination, Kenney objected to being questioned by Fleming and MPAC lawyer Shawn Douglas about her involvement in the community group Wolfe Island Residents for the Environment (WIRE).

She said she failed to see how that information could be related to their property value.

Mather and co-panel member Jacques Laflamme ruled that the information could be relevant.

Kenney went on to tell the hearing that, beginning in 2006, WIRE had attracted more than 100 members who were dedicated to releasing information on both sides of the turbine issue.

“I’m not opposed to them and I’m not for them,” she said when asked about her perception of turbines.

“I think it was an improper siting. I am opposed to 86 wind turbines being located on the island.”

Fleming asked Kenney if any of her normal day-to-day activities, such as gardening, watching TV or having conversations, were being interrupted by turbine noise.

“Does that stop us from talking? No,” she answered.

“The sound is so loud I choose not to garden in that sound. When the wind turbines are pounding, I choose not to sit outside.”

In testimony in May, the panel heard that MPAC had assessed the Kenneys’ home, prior to turbine construction, at $357,000.

Also called to testify at that time was Kingston-based real estate assessor Stephen Rayner, who did comparative studies for the previous owners of the wind farm, Canadian Renewable Energy Corporation, starting four years before construction.

Rayner told the hearing that he could find no evidence to show the turbines had caused a devaluation in Wolfe Island properties.

10 thoughts on “Panel denies Wolfe Island couple’s expert witness

  1. Try submitting the Clarkson study: “Values in the wind”. See Table 9 on page 37, which correlates value loss to distance from turbines.

    It is solid evidence of value loss near turbines.

    • They are not looking for anything hypothetical or studies from other areas.

      They are looking for specifics. You must prove YOUR property has been affected. You must show a written record (journal) of problems in specific to YOU and YOUR dwelling. You must show an historical record of complaints YOU have made to the MOE.

      If you are having problems, there is work to do! Even then, there is no guarantee of success.

  2. Of course MPAC is doing everything to discredit the people who have filed for re-assessment. And to deny Harrison a chance to make a presentation on the “thought” that it might be too theoretical. How do they know that it will be too theoretical. Do they know what he was going to say or show?

    I agree. How is it relevant whether one is connected to any association in regards to whether one’s property value has suffered because of a nuisance generating object? Did they ask whether she belonged to a church? Other professional organization or association? Does she sit on the board of directors’ at the library?

    MPAC is pooping their pants, because if the Kenney’s can correlate the fact that IWT’s have diminished their property value, then I would think this would be a precedent setting case for all Ontarians. ANYONE who has IWT’s near their property should demand a hearing. It is a fact that in many areas of the province the value of one’s house has gone down once an IWT development has been established or is about to be developed.

  3. Steve Rayner is not an “assessor,” he is an accredited appraiser with the Appraisal Institute of Canada. He is, I believe, in a conflict of interest situation and should not have testified for the ARB when he took an assignment from the wind developer earlier.

  4. “(Gail) Kenney also noted that while a number of companies and people benefit financially from the wind farm — including owners TransAlta and the landowners who rent their properties for the turbines — they do not.”

    Add to TransAlta and landlords the municipality Frontenac Islands, which will “receive $7,500 per year for each of the 86 turbines, $645,000 in total with growth, for the next 20 to 40 years” through an amenities agreement. http://www.wolfeisland.com

    In January 2011, Frontenac Islands solicitor Tim Wilkin (Cunningham Swan) told the township, ” It was basically an agreement between CREC, Canadian Hydro, and the township. Its purpose was to make provisions for compensation or benefits to be paid to the township to compensate for any perceived adverse effect of having the wind farm in the municipality specifically on Wolfe Island.”

    At the same January meeting, Councillor Barb Springgay said. “ And in terms of hardship, although not concluded yet, one might be if anyone should go to MPAC and say their property value has gone down due to towers and have their taxes reduced based on a lower assessment, the Township would receive less. …” http://www.wolfeisland.com/mtnews/archives/2011_01.php

    In March 2011, Deputy Mayor David Jones stated that he “believes that amenities money should be set aside as a legacy “until we understand compensation as a safe guard to what may happen if our tax base is eroded by devaluation.””
    http://www.wolfeisland.com/mtnews/archives/2011_03.php

    In April 2011, “WI resident Ed Kenney who is appealing his property assessment with MPAC (May4-5) asked questions of council: Why has the township council hired a lawyer to represent them at the hearing? Was it a council decision? Has council ever hired a lawyer before to oppose a request of MPAC? Any portion of (my) taxes paying for the law firm, legal costs to date and is Trans Alta reimbursing those costs to the township. Council will research the information requested. ” http://www.wolfeisland.com/mtnews/archives/2011_04.php

    “WI resident Ed Kenney attended the (May 2011) meeting to ask the same questions of council he asked in April related to his assessment appeal and requested they be included in council minutes along with the answers. His written statement noted a published statement that the township has no responsibility for property assessment for tax purposes. His questions related to: Who hired the law firm to represent the township at a hearing regarding a residential property assessment appeal? Why? Was it a council decision? (NO) Ever done before? (NO) Is any portion of my municipal taxes paying for this law firm to oppose my appeal to MPAC? (NO) Costs of hiring this law firm to date? (were made available) Is this township being reimbursed by Trans Alta for any of the costs? (NO) Kenney noted that the hearing has been moved to Kingston because of inadequate facilities on the island and will be arranged by Cunningham and Swan at the township’s expense.” http://www.wolfeisland.com/mtnews/archives/2011_05.php

  5. I’m just wondering- if the objection was that the Professor hadn’t done any field studies – does the side claiming no problems for this couple have any independent field studies supporting their contention. I would bet not. Once again government – in this case we can thank Mike Harris’ MPAC problem child creation – works for big business and against the average person.

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