MPAC misled Ontario on wind turbine neighbour property values: Conroy
“Anyone with eyes” can see wind turbines impair property values… why does an Ontario government agency insist the opposite is true?
The Wellington Times, April 22, 2016
By Rick Conroy
One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.- George Orwell
They didn’t come to talk about industrial wind turbines. Rather, the two emissaries from the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC)—an agency of the province of Ontario—came to apologize.
MPAC is the government agency that determines the value of your home or property for municipal taxation purposes. They know they do a poor job of it. They have such low confidence in their ability to assess the value of your home, particularly in rural, heterogeneous neighbourhoods, one phone call is often all it takes to have an assessment reduced.
So the MPAC folks came to Shire Hall to say they are sorry and want to do better. Part of a dog-and-pony-apology tour across Ontario. They came with plans to improve the way they, and clerks in municipalities across the province, might work together better.
County council members, however, wanted to know about industrial wind turbines. Specifically, they wanted to know the impact on property values of 50-storey machines erected in a scenic rural shoreline. The MPAC folks were prepared for the question. They get it a lot.
Leaning heavily on MPAC’s own study based on 2012 data, the representatives assured council industrial wind turbines nearby had “no statistically significant impact on sale prices.” When it conducted the analysis, the provincial agency knew its findings would meet with a skeptical reception, so it hired an American consultant to examine the data too. It, however, found a statistically significant impact lowering the sale prices of homes near industrial wind turbines, but that the impact was small.
That was the information shared with council. Council believed it was true.
Ed and Gail Kenney have been battling MPAC for seven years. In 2008, the couple’s Wolfe Island home was valued at $200,000. The following year, 86 industrial wind turbines sprouted around his home. Fluctuating pressure caused by the turbines makes Ed uncomfortable and edgy—he finds it difficult to sleep. Yet he doesn’t want to move.
That same year MPAC determined the value of the Kenneys’ home had risen to $375,000—driving their municipal taxes much higher. They appealed. If anything, the value of their home was less because of the turbines, not more. It took several years and a small fortune, yet they lost their appeal.
“The board found that based on the evidence, in this case, there appeared to be no evidence of any negative impact to the value of the property,” concluded the MPAC appeal panel.
The case raised serious questions about how MPAC conducts its evaluations. The hard data appeared to contradict its conclusion. A small corps of amateurs pored over the data. They found a correlation between a decline in sale prices and proximity to industrial wind turbines. But they were just raising more questions. There was no hard evidence or academic research contradicting MPAC. Until now.
A new study prepared by Clarkson University and Nanos Research paints a very different picture of what happened as a result of the industrial wind turbines on Wolfe Island.
The Clarkson-Nanos study concludes that a massive wind project proposed for Galloo Island— part of a chain of islands that includes the Duck Islands stretching from Prince Edward Point to Henderson, New York—will likely depress property values of homes with a view of the turbines. The researchers calculate the impact is likely to be more than $40 million while providing the community with little value in return.
But surely the most surprising aspect of their research, for Ontario residents at least, was what they learned about property values directly across from Wolfe Island.
Clarkson-Nanos found that properties with a view of the western side of Wolfe Island, in and around Cape Vincent, prior to turbines being built, commanded a premium of about 10 per cent relative to similar properties. After the turbines were constructed, however, they found a “strong negative impact” on property values. Further, their analysis determined that industrial wind turbines reduce property values on the American mainland by about 15 per cent.
So let’s get this straight. MPAC and its consultant couldn’t detect a significant impact on property values on homes in the shadow of these looming mechanical giants—yet across the channel, an independent research body found homes are worth far less because their view includes industrial wind turbines.
It is obvious to those with eyes that industrial wind turbines impair property values. It is surely why the province wouldn’t tolerate an appeal based on economic or property losses as a result of an industrial wind project located nearby.
Yet the provincial government continues to compel its agencies to tell the public a different story.
The last shreds of credibility MPAC may have once had, now lie in tatters. …
Read Rick Conroy’s stunning conclusion and the rest of the story here.