2017-11-12 / Insight

Wind turbine effect on land values hard to determine

BY PHIL FOLEY
810-452-2616 • pfoley@mihomepaper.com


When construction begins on a wind development, a “staging area” is needed, such as this one for Consumers Energy’s Cross Winds Energy Park II currently under construction near Tuscola County’s village of Unionville 
Photo by Andrew Dietderich When construction begins on a wind development, a “staging area” is needed, such as this one for Consumers Energy’s Cross Winds Energy Park II currently under construction near Tuscola County’s village of Unionville Photo by Andrew Dietderich HURON COUNTY — The jury’s still out on how commercial wind turbines affect land value, and local officials and real estate professionals alike in Tuscola, Huron and Sanilac counties for the most part loath to talk about it.

One thing they will agree on is the subject is divisive and controversial. One real estate agent in the region, who’s also a township official, flatly refused to go on the record. Others didn’t return phone calls.

One who did, Dave Vizard of Kraft Realty in Caseville, said he thinks it’s been a good thing so far. Vizard, who’s been a Realtor for 10 years, believes wind farms have “only added value” in Huron County, which is home to nearly 500 wind turbines.

However, he said, the subject has “split communities.” Both Huron and Shiawassee counties are nearing the end of one-year moratoriums on wind energy projects and debate on the subject is expected to re-ignite.

Traci Martin, a Birmingham-area Realtor who recently bought a 30-acre horse farm in North Branch Township, said she became interested in the effects of wind turbines after she bought the farm and discovered there was a wind farm lease literally in her back yard.

“I stay in good contact with most of my past clients,” said Martin. She contacted her clients and asked them if they’d be interested in buying a property with a wind turbine nearby and 90 percent of them said, “‘no way,’ with some being more colorful than that.”

Vizard, who lives about 10 miles from the nearest wind farm, said he can see them and their flashing navigation lights at night, but they don’t bother him. He said he’s more focused on the fact they generate income for local schools, townships, police departments and fire departments. “In rural Michigan,” Vizard said, “we’re eager to have revenue.”

According to Vizard, each wind turbine represents a $3.5 million and 20-year investment in the local community. In Huron County, Vizard said, not only do the people who have wind turbines on their property get lease payments, but so does anyone who lives in the wind district surrounding them.

He said he recently sold a property — a house on a small plot — and the owner will be getting an annual lease payment of $1,000 for the next 17 years. The wind leases, Vizard said, transfer with property ownership.

While saying opposition to wind turbines has a lot to do with “fear and the unknowns,” Vizard said there are some negatives. “People who live near them say there’s a noise factor and there’s flicker,” he said. Flicker, Vizard said, is the shadow cast by turning blades at certain times of day.

Lori Babcock, who has sold real estate for 40 years in the Port Austin area, said she’s seen no effect one way or the other.

A 2013 study produced by Ben Hoen at the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory looked at 27 counties in nine states and found “no statistical evidence” of effects on home sales on properties near wind turbines. Earlier this year Bridge Magazine published a report saying agricultural land values in counties hosting wind farms increased 20 percent between 2008 and 2016.

Martin dismisses those studies saying they were funded for the most part by wind energy companies.

One employee at the Tuscola County Equalization office said it’s difficult to track changes in farm land values since it doesn’t transfer much. “A lot of it,” they said, “will stay in the same family four generations.”

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