Grafton wind forum covers home values
GRAFTON -- About 60 people gathered at the White Church in Grafton for the second in a series of three wind forums, this one focusing largely on the value of properties located near wind projects.
The first forum -- which was held last November at the United Church of Christ in Townshend -- focused largely on the noise impacts wind projects have had in some nearby areas. One of those was the 19 turbine Hoosac wind project in the town of Florida, built by Iberdrola Renewables -- a company headquartered in Spain -- and another was the 24 turbine project built by Iberdrola in Groton, N.H.
Iberdrola Renewables built two test towers in Windham and one in Grafton on land owned by the New Hampshire based Meadowsend Timberlands Limited, which some believe is a precursor to an application for a large scale wind development project in Windham County.
According to a Power Point presentation put together by Mike McCann the owner of McCann Appraisal, LLC, there are 951 dwellings within three miles of the potential tower sites -- 500 of which are within two miles of the potential site -- in the towns of Andover, Athens, Chester, Grafton, Jamaica, Londonderry, Townshend and Windham.
Windham would be affected the most with 414 dwellings located near the potential site as well as the towns of Londonderry, Grafton and Townshend, which have 199, 146, and 114 dwellings, respectively, within three miles of the site.
During the forum on Friday night, there was the sense that the perhaps a big part of the reason the value of homes near wind projects declined was due to the noise associated with them as it made it difficult to draw interest from perspective buyers.
In a study McCann did on Lee County, Ill., the average price per square foot for a home outside two miles of the wind project was $104.72. For those that were within two miles of the project the average sale price was $78.84 per square foot -- a decline in value of approximately 25 percent.
One couple that was part of a panel at Friday's forum -- Scott and Melodie McLane from Georgia -- experienced the depreciation of the value their home first hand. After the Georgia Wind project was built, the couple began to be affected by the noise, which was the same complaint the panelists from the first forum -- who lived near the Hoosac Wind Project and the Groton Wind Project -- made.
"We get the noise. That's our biggest issue," said Melodie McClane.
The McClanes -- who live 3,800 feet from the project -- filed an appeal on July 1 of last year to the Board of Civil Authority to have their home reappraised. After the hearings, the McClanes were notified on Oct. 4 that their appeal had been granted.
"The committee felt there was a noise factor to the property caused by Georgia Wind Project and decided to use the scale of (8 percent to 15 percent of value) of impact provided by the Assessor based upon the noise level," the official notice from the BCA said. "The committee recommended the property-assessed value by the town be reduced by 12 percent."
Before the appeal the McClanes' home was worth $409,000; after the appeal it was worth $360,712.
Lisa Wright Garcia of Wright appraisal Company in West Rutland -- who was also the other panelist and helped the McClanes in their appeal process -- felt the BCA took the appropriate action.
"The BCA is not tax professionals so it's meant to be kind of a check on the process and I have to congratulate the BCA in their town because I think they really did the right thing by the fellow taxpayers and sadly I don't find that tax appeals always go that way," Wright Garcia said.
There were six people on the committee, all of whom came up to their house and spent a significant amount of time listening to the noise, trying to make a determination in the case.
"With the noise, it's not noisy all the time," Melodie McClane said. "We can go two days with no noise whatsoever and then bam you're getting hammered; rumble, rumble, rumble, rumble all day long, all night long."
Scott McClane -- who is an engineer -- said that he has certified sound-metering equipment and he has Excel graphs that show pre- and post-construction noise levels. Scott McClane said that the developer was close to breaking the 10 dba increase in the ambient noise levels.
"Even at that higher level the project, per the conditions of their certificate of public good, was still in compliance, but that doesn't mean that it hasn't depreciated our property," he said. "That's the whole thing. The wind developers will sit back and go 'Hey, we're in compliance' and that's the thing that people have to understand. It's taken something away from us."
Melodie McClane said that the longer they hear the noise from the turbines the worse it feels.
Near the end of the forum, Executive Director of Vermont for Clean Energy and moderator of the forum, Annette Smith, recounted the experiences of Steven and Luann Therrien who live near the Sheffield Wind project. They had lived in their home -- which Smith said is not far from the Interstate -- for 17 years. However, since the turbines have been built they begun experiencing physical symptoms.
"That turbine noise and the infrasound has made them so sick they can't work. They're on anti-depressants. They're on sleeping medications. Steve is on motion sickness pills. He often wakes up in the morning throwing up," said Smith.
The Therriens have sought help from the town of Sheffield, First Wind -- the developer -- and several other entities so that they can abandon their home and find a better place to live, Smith said -- so far to no avail.
During closing statements, Melodie McClane gave one parting thought to the crowd.
"The best thing you can do up front is the thing that you're doing now just learning about the whole process and if they do actually go through the permitting process to put this project in, be an intervener. Hire an attorney," she said.
According Smith, a representative from Iberdrola was at the forum on Friday, but she did not identify herself or ask any questions.
Brandon Canevari is a staff writer for the Manchester Journal. Follow him on Twitter @BrandonCanevari.
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