Do they look good or not?
Some people like how wind turbines look. Others don't. Perhaps others have no opinion.
Our local public bodies officially can't take that factor into account. People define beauty differently.
For more than 2 months, the Whiteside County Planning and Zoning Commission has been considering a proposal for nine turbines in the county's southeastern corner.
Opponents often say the noise, vibrations and shadow flicker from turbines are too much for neighboring homes. They say some suffer health problems as a result of those things.
Every once in a while, someone mentions during a public hearing that they don't like the view of towering turbines. But that's not a focus.
One pro-wind farm resident told me that the driving force behind the opponents is the view of turbines. They come up with other reasons so that they appear to have a legitimate basis for objecting, he said.
Whatever the case, the view of turbines is relevant to the discussion. That's because people fear their property values will drop if turbines pop up nearby.
No one can deny a percentage of the population is opposed to having neighboring turbines. Sure, we can quibble about what that percentage is. But a potential pool of home buyers has no interest in living next to a wind farm.
Of course, others may want to live near turbines. One of my best friends thinks they are beautiful.
So who is in the majority? Those who want to live near turbines or those who don't? How many don't care?
Appraisers are divided on the subject. One Illinois appraiser, Michael McCann, has gone to communities around the state showing evidence how neighboring turbines cause home values to plummet.
Another Illinois appraiser, Michael Crowley, said wind farms don't hurt nearby property values.
Guess which one gets paid by wind energy companies.
In April, Mainstream Renewable Power, which is planning the nine turbines, brought in Crowley for the Whiteside zoning commission hearing.
The most revealing part of his testimony was when Sterling resident Amanda Norris cross-examined him.
Earlier, he had testified that if you can see it, hear it, feel it, smell it or read about it, a home's price could be affected.
Here's a portion of the transcript of Norris' exchange with Crowley:
Norris: If you read about it, you said it has the potential to negatively impact the values. So just having it out there in the paper being broadcast throughout the community, would that in your own formula here potentially affect that market in a negative manner?
Crowley: Well, once again, remember, potentially means it doesn't necessarily, but it may.
Norris: So you're saying, yes, it could potentially create a negative impact on the market?
Crowley: You're putting words in my mouth, which I don't appreciate.
The meeting facilitator intervened, telling Crowley to answer the question. Crowley asked Norris to repeat her question.
Norris: So, in that scenario, could the fact that the complaints are in the paper being shared throughout the community, being read in the community, according to your formula, negatively impact the housing market?
Crowley: There's a possibility that could happen.
Norris didn't put any words in Crowley's mouth. She just asked questions that got to the heart of the issue.
Crowley, based in Spring Valley, may return to the area soon. Mainstream may use him as a witness in its hearings for Mainstream's plans for 60 turbines in Lee County. Those hearings start July 5.
Here's what I asked Crowley: Assume for a moment that people have no good reason to oppose wind turbines, but, still, they don't want to live anywhere near them. If they are a majority, what effect would that have on demand for houses near wind farms?
Crowley said prices would be affected only if a "significant portion" of the market objected to wind farms. And he said he hasn't found that anywhere.
"The experience I have found is that there is a sparsely distributed number of opponents," he said.
Sauk Valley Media reporter David Giuliani covers the Whiteside and Lee county governments, Morrison and other smaller communities. He can be reached at dgiuliani@saukvalley or at 800-798-4085, ext. 525.
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