Wind turbines hammer property & health (USA)

Jul 7, 2011

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“People will be either trapped within or flee (abandon or sell at huge discounts) their family homes”

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Editor’s note
:  The following was written by Michael McCann, a seasoned Chicago real estate appraiser who for several years has been examining the property value impacts of wind turbines.  Mr. McCann has made numerous, peer-reviewed reports to town boards faced with wind energy projects.

His letter is addressed to Kenneth Kimmell, Commissioner of the Mass. Dept. of Environmental Protection, and John Auerbach, Commissioner of Mass. Dept. of Public Health, in response to the State of Massachusetts holding an inquiry into Wind Turbine Syndrome.
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Kenneth Kimmell, Commissioner, DEP
John Auerbach, Commissioner, DPH
MassDEP Wind Turbine Docket
1 Winter Street 4th Floor Mailroom
Boston, MA 02108

Dear Commissioners,

I am responding to your inquiry into health effects from industrial wind turbines. Since there is a noticeable correlation between reported health impacts and significant impacts on real estate values, as well as the real estate rights issue of peaceful use and enjoyment of one’s home, I believe the documented diminution of property values caused by improper turbine siting is an objective measure of this secondary impact.

I do not write as a medical expert; however, in 6 years of reviewing industry funded and independent reports, inspecting project locations, researching empirical prima facie sale price evidence and interviewing residents, I have found that there is a tremendous market aversion of the “market” to buying homes within visible and audible (or sub-audible) proximity to industrial scale turbines.

My value studies have included submissions to Massachusetts Towns of Wareham and Brewster, and have been written to address zoning compliance evaluation of proposed projects in those locales. (I am sure either Town’s Zoning Board of Appeals would be able to provide a copy of my submitted report or presentation, but if interested in reviewing these documents, feel free to contact me directly for a copy.)

I would note for your consideration that wind project developers in Massachusetts typically seek to obtain setback permissions that have proven to be unhealthy and so disturbing to some existing residents near other wind energy projects worldwide, that dozens of people have abandoned their family homes rather than continue to try to cope with an untenable level of impact. Impacts from noise, shadow flicker and the unhealthy physical and/or physiological reactions to same.

Industry prefers to couch their applications for approval with their self defined limits of how many hours of shadow flicker are acceptable, or with “modeled” rather than measured noise studies. They also prefer to discuss setbacks in terms of feet and meters, when projects broadcast their impacts on a scale measured in miles and kilometers. I have personally seen more official scrutiny of public officials hearing zoning requests for fast-food drive through lanes or lighted parking lots than what is often rubber stamped approval of wind applications, with no serious consideration of the multitude of actual impacts from wind turbines.

It is my belief that peaceful use and enjoyment of a residential property is simply a measure of the other side of the same coin; namely, health impacts. If both ways of describing people’s rights are to be adequately protected, then it is my recommendation that Massachusetts develop rules that require:

1. Setbacks be scaled to the size of turbines, i.e., 2+ miles for the 400-500 foot turbines typically proposed, reduced to perhaps ½ mile for turbines of 125 feet in height.

2. Mandatory shutdown of turbines during nightime sleeping hours.

3. Mandatory shutdown of turbines that generate noise complaints, until such time that actual noise levels can be MEASURED and demonstrated that background levels are not exceeded by independently determined health/acoustic study levels, including low frequency and infrasound levels.

4. Mandatory homeowner option to sell to developers at market value, if and when inadequate (i.e., 1,000 feet – 1,500 feet) setbacks are approved by any unit of government.

5. A moratorium on any further turbine construction within 2 miles of any residence, until such time that there are reliable studies addressing low frequency and infrasound impacts from turbines on human health. Claims made by industry put the burden of proof on homeowners, and it is the appropriate role of government to end this trend and rely on credible evidence to protect the public health, safety and welfare, and, indeed, their property values.

Any homeowners that lived at ground zero of Boston’s Big Dig project were certainly bought out for the greater public good. I suggest that enforcing this concept is an appropriate use of governmental authority with the claimed public good of wind energy projects, as well. Until then, the completely lopsided scale of turbine developments will surely continue to create health impacts, and people will be either trapped within, or flee (abandon or sell at huge discounts) their family homes.

Thank you for your attention to my response to your inquiry. I remain available to discuss the related real estate issues that correlate with health effects.

Sincerely,

Michael S. McCann
McCann Appraisal, LLC
500 North Michigan Avenue, Suite # 300
Chicago, Illinois 60611

Real Estate Appraisal & Consulting
cell (312) 961-1601
mikesmccann@comcast.net
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Michael S. McCann
(whom we can forgive for living in Chicago)

 

  1. Comment by mtumba djibouti on 07/07/2011 at 1:07 pm

    This is excellent testimony with valuable recommendations, but I’d use even stronger language in requiring turbine developers to buy affected properties.

    Turbine developers who destroy property values are involved in a “taking” of property against the affected owners’ will. Developers should be required to buy out owners at the highest recent value BEFORE the development was proposed, not “market value” after the market already slashes values because of the future development. I’d even like to see a requirement that developers have to revisit local real estate market after 10 years following their purchase, and pay any additional comparable value that would have accrued to the affected property, as evidenced by values of nearby properties that are unaffected by the development.

    Even these proposals aren’t entirely fair to many affected owners, because many owners bought rural properties with the intention of living there for the rest of their lives. A truly fair requirement would be to require developers to pay out based on the affected owners life expectancies multiplied by the average expected inflation rate over that period.

  2. Comment by Mike McCann (Chicago, Ill) on 07/21/2011 at 7:10 pm

    Having worked on scores of public projects that required relocation of hundreds of people from their homes involuntarily or which confiscated certain property rights, I completely agree that there is no truly fair answer to the problem, short of complete removal of the turbines that cause any type of adverse proximity impact. I also agree personally that no one should be forced from their homes.

    However, I also understand that governmental entities who believe they are acting in the public good often have the authority to proceed with projects of various types. But when property rights and value are confiscated, then “just compensation” is defined in numerous Federal and State court cases as the market value of the property taken.

    When homes become untenable due to noise & health impacts, this forces some people from their homes….WITHOUT compensation. Constructive eviction from one’s residence is, in my opinion, a regulatory taking and an appropriate basis for invoking eminent domain (inverse condemnation) procedures, and the historic standard is the value of the property with no consideration of the effect of the project on value (you are correct about that Mtumba)..

    There may be other areas of appropriate compensation for health impacts, ongoing nuisances, etc. As a professional appraiser, however, I limit my opinions on compensation within the property value expertise I have gained over 30 years.