To be clear, the recent settlement of a lawsuit by 20 residents of Ubly Michigan with major wind developers is private and undisclosed. Anyone pointing to a single reason for the settlement on this particular case is speculating.
However it’s a now a matter of public record that the wind farm defendants in the Ubly case did unsuccessfully attempt to prevent the opinion of a local property assessment firm that showed that the plaintiffs suffered a reduction in property values approaching $1 million. This negative impact on property values mirror several landmark cases seen in Western Europe where wind energy has been growing over the last decade.
In a case in England in 2008 a homeowner prevailed in a lawsuit with her local government. Jane Davis was told she will get a discount on her council tax because her £170,000 ($268,000) home had been rendered worthless by a wind turbine 1,000 yards away.
Even the real estate mogul Donald Trump is not immune from the negative impact of wind farms. Trump is in the process of developing a golf and hotel resort in Scotland. Plans for development of 11 turbines near the resort in an offshore development have caused Trump to claim it will ruin the views from his new championship golf course north of Aberdeen Scotland. Trump wrote the authorities, “With the reckless installation of these monsters, you will single-handedly have done more damage to Scotland than virtually any event in Scottish history.” Trumps project is valued at $1.18B.
The Ubly case, while settled, may open up the proverbial can of worms as other nearby residents of established and projected wind farms attempt to sell their home or family farms in the months and years ahead.
From 2012 – An undisclosed settlement of a lawsuit filed by 20 residents claiming that the construction and operation of the wind farm caused the plaintiffs to suffer adverse health effects, emotional distress and economic damages. Court documents from the Huron County Clerk’s office list the defendants as John Deere Renewables, Deere & Co., Noble Environmental Power LLC, Michigan Wind 1 LLC and RMT Inc.
The lawsuit filed May 11, 2010 in Huron County noted the plaintiffs were seeking in excess of $25,000 with injunctive relief ordering the companies to cease and desist their activities.
Property Value Drop Due to Nearby Wind Farms A Potential Consideration of the Settlement
A key element that may have led to the settlement was evidence introduced by the plaintiffs that pointed to loss of property value. The wind companies unsuccessfully attempted to exclude the opinion and testimony of the plaintiffs’ property valuation expert, L. Mark St. Clair of Vasser, who inspected the plaintiffs’ properties. His opinion noted an $829,545 combined loss in property value since Jan. 1, 2009. St. Clair’s website notes that he provides appraisals for litigation dealing with Commercial-Agricultural-Industrial in the Bay, Huron, Lapeer, Midland, Saginaw, Sanilac and Tuscola Counties.
Judge M. Richard Knoblock denied the motion by the plaintiffs’ to exclude St. Clair’s opinions and testimony on Dec. 23.
From 2012 – An estimated 37,000 jobs could be affected due to Congress denying an extension of the production tax credit (PTC) that was first enacted in 1992. Since 1999, the PTC has received short-term extensions seven times, and has lapsed three times. This boom-and-bust cycle of uncertainty has impacted long term planning of wind projects over the past ten years.
Vestas one of the world’s largest producers of wind turbines, said it may need to lay off 1,600 people in the coming months without more policy certainty. The PTC, a credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour, is given to an owner of a wind-energy project once a wind turbine begins to produce electricity. According to the American Wind Energy Association the U.S. wind energy industry has invested $60 billion since 2005.
It’s uncertain as to the potential impact of several wind farm projects just starting in Michigan’s Thumb. The Chicago Tribune is reporting that the failure to pass the PTC may halt more than 13,892 megawatts of planned wind projects in Illinois. The current PTC tax credits expire at the end of 2012.
This is a look back at the events that took place leading to the forced removal of two long standing commissioners from the Lake Township Michigan planning board in 2009. Both individuals were noted as taking a hard line with the way wind energy was being zoned and allowed into the township.
The article from the Huron Daily Tribune and the subsequent comments by local readers serve as a record of the political atmosphere during the initial debate over the direction of wind energy in the Upper Thumb. Planning Commission Chairman Louis J. Colletta and Planning Commission Member Tim Lalley where removed from their positions by the Lake Township board.
There remains a high level of contention and debate due to Wind Energy in Lake Township to this day.