ZBA Board at wind farm hearings

Members of the Piatt County Zoning Board of Appeals listen to testimony during the 10th night of public hearings on the proposed Goose Creek Wind Farm project.

MONTICELLO – The building of a wind farm lowers property values in and around the footprint, said an expert testifying on behalf of objectors to a proposed Piatt County Wind Farm.

Kurt Kielisch, the president of Forensic Appraisal Group and a certified General Real Property Appraiser in Illinois, was the first witness to testify for those in opposition to the proposed Goose Creek Wind Farm in northern Piatt County.

He opened Wednesday, the 10th night of testimony in front of the Piatt County Zoning Board of Appeals, by telling the ZBA members that studies have proven that property values of neighboring properties can be affected before, during and after a wind farm is built.

Phil Luetkehans, the attorney representing several opponents of the proposed wind farm, asked Kielisch what his study of the proposed wind farm found.

“There is a definite and measurable loss of value to residential property value within proximity to a wind turbine and proximity can be defined as within a one mile footprint of the wind turbines,” he said.

Kielish said that property values within the footprint itself are likely to drop 35%, properties within one mile of the footprint would drop 22% and agricultural properties within the footprint would drop by 8.5%.

Kielish said that in determining if there is a rise or fall in property values due to a project such as a wind farm, he studies what potential buyers of property are looking at and considering before buying a property.

“We look at comments that are being made (in public forums) with the belief that perception equals value,” he said. “That perception can be altered by what we view, what we hear, and what we read ….. Overall perception of a wind turbine in proximity to a residence is not a positive and not an enhancement to value. It’s not neutral, very often it is negative in value.”

Kielish said that when someone sells a property, they often list the benefits of the property.

“I have yet to see a listing that includes ‘View of wind turbine,’” he added. “We already know that is not going to be a big selling point.”

Noise, flicker patterns, health issues and other factors reportedly caused by turbines also negatively impact property values, he said.

Earlier in the hearings, expert witnesses, such as Mike MaRous, the owner and president of MaRous and Company in Park Ridge, testified that the proposed project would not affect the property values of property located in the footprint of the project.

Crop duster issues

Ryan Bauer, an operations manager with RAS Aviation, a helicopter crop-dusting firm based in Mansfield, opened testimony on Thursday, the 11th night of hearings. Bauer said the company services a 50- to 60-mile radius around Mansfield, covering as many as 16 different counties.

“We have a fair amount of experience in working in and around different wind farms in Central Illinois,” he said. “We have concerns about property values like everybody else, but our main concern is safety. Our pilots have continuously stated their concerns.”

When approaching a field, officials at the company have to determine how to spray the field based on the geography of the land, the wind direction, telephone lines, tree lines and the wind turbines add another dimension of conditions that have to be factored in before spraying a field, he said. A sprayed field can add 10 to 15 bushels of corn per acre, he said.

When spraying a field with a wind turbine, pilots have to circle the tower and work out from it, similar to a corkscrew-type method.

“We are turning into the wind and out of the wind and it is not typically a normal maneuver that our pilots would normally make,” he said. “It increases the cost to the customer and we have to charge additional for each wind turbine in the field.”

Bauer said that Apex Senior Development Manager Alan Moore had spoken to him and offered assistance and would make concessions.

Noise issues

Dr. Jerry Punch also testified on behalf of the opponents of the project. Based near East Lansing, Michigan, Punch is an audiologist and said that wind turbines have a negative effect on human health, due to the noise.

“The things that make wind turbine noise unique are that you have to keep calculating because it doesn’t stay at the same level,” he said. “It’s impulsive, and up and down in intensity. You can’t control it and that makes it unpredictable.”

Punch said that even noise at low levels can have an impact on health for people.

“Sleep disturbance is the most reported symptom of wind turbines,” he said.

In summarizing his testimony, Punch pointed that models suggest that several non-participating properties may experience noise issues or “annoyance” when noise rises above a certain dBA (an expression of the loudness of sound as perceived by the human ear).

“Annoyance from turbine noise at 35 dBA corresponds to the annoyance reported for other common community-noise sources at 45 dBA. The World Health Organization (WHO) has concluded that observable effects of nighttime, outdoor noise levels of 40 dBA or higher will lead to diminished health. This also occurs when levels inside homes (especially bedrooms) rise above 30 dBA or contain non-steady and/or low-frequency noise,” he said.

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