By Elliot Ferguson The Whig-Standard
Gail and Ed Kenney may have had the last word, but it was an ice machine that did the talking. As the Kenneys’ assessment review hearing drew to a close Wednesday, the machine, which had been rumbling throughout the two days of hearings at the General Wolfe Hotel, became too much for the board members, who inquired if it could be turned off because it was a distraction. The machine, and the noise, couldn’t be turned off, a point not lost on Gail Kenney during her final remarks. “Like this situation, we can’t pull the plug on the wind turbines,” she told the board members.
The comment capped the Kenneys’ 30-month quest to have the 2008 assessment of their Wolfe Island home reduced.
The couple argued the $357,000 assessment was too high because subsequent construction of 27 wind turbines within 3 km of their home has significantly reduced the property’s value.
The Kenneys requested a $74,000 reduction in their assessment, to $283,000, the value determined by Janet Grace, a Kingston realtor who testified on behalf of the Kenneys in August.
The Kenneys said in their closing arguments Wednesday that the wind turbines have increased noise and vibrations in their home and destroyed much of their view.
Gail Kenney said increased maintenance and sightseeing traffic and light from the wind turbines have reduced their enjoyment of the property.
She said that although the company operating the turbines is mandated to prevent the noise from exceeding 40 decibels, the noise is unpredictable and depends on wind direction, time of day, atmospheric conditions and season.
Even when less than 40 decibels, the turbine noise can still be intrusive.
“Compliance does not equate to quiet,” she said.
Gail Kenney said windows, mirrors and picture frames in their home now constantly reflect images of “perpetually moving turbine blades.”
She said the couple’s complaint is not with wind energy in general but with the wind turbines’ impact on their specific property and the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation’s valuation of it.
Gail Kenney said MPAC used comparable properties that were too different to make a fair comparison.
Ed Kenney said there were errors in a report by Kingston assessor Stephen Rayner that was submitted as evidence in May and showed property values on Wolfe Island have not declined since the wind turbines were built.
Ed Kenney said the errors were enough to put the whole report in question.
Tony Fleming, a lawyer representing the Township of the Frontenac Islands, said the errors had already been acknowledged by Rayner and the conclusions of the report were still valid.
On the contrary, Fleming said, property values have continued to climb across the island.
Fleming added that there has never been a lot of sales on Wolfe Island.
“There are few sales on the island and that is a historical trend,” he said.
Fleming said the Kenneys did not produce any evidence to show their property’s value had declined as a result of the wind turbines.
He said that although noise from the wind turbines is audible, there is no evidence that it is loud enough to pose a nuisance to the Kenneys.
He also said the wind turbines do not affect the Kenneys’ view of the water.
Shawn Douglas, a lawyer for MPAC, said the only qualified expert to testify at the hearing about property assessment values was an MPAC analyst who said the wind turbines had no impact.
The analyst, Emily Corsi, testified Tuesday that properties that sold on the island in the past three years were assessed close to their market value and sold for close to their asking price.
Douglas said property assessment is not an exact science and often value is expressed as a price range.
Douglas said the Kenneys’ current assessment is within an appropriate range.
“This subject property is a unique property located in a niche market,” Douglas said.
Douglas asked the board not to reduce the Kenneys’ assessment, adding that if it did decide to reduce the couple’s assessment, that specific reasons for doing so be stated.
The assessment appeal is now in the hands of the review board, which is expected to return a decision several weeks from now.