Neighbors wind turbine project feeling ‘blown away’

The following news article appeared in the September 18, 2012 edition of the Benzie Record-Patriot. Here is a link to the original article.

RIVERTON TWP. – This used to be a quite, picturesque community in farm country just southeast of Ludington.

That scene has been transformed with the introduction of 56 industrial wind turbines under construction since late last year.

Now the dream of living among “the rolling hills, the nature and serenity… we are blown away,” according to this description captured in a poem written by one of Cary Shineldecker friends, neighbor and fellow Riverton Township resident.

Consumers Energy, the Michigan utility giant and principal subsidiary of Jackson based CMS Energy Corporation, came to Mason County in December 2007 to begin collecting leases from more than 160 property owners on 9,300 acres and easement within the 16,000 acre project area for their $235 million 56 industrial wind turbines in Riverton and neighboring Summit Township.

Mason County’s planning commission approved the project 6-0 in mid 2011, ignoring pleas from surrounding non leasing holding property owners. Construction on the 476 foot tall to the blade tip towers began later that year.

Consumers said it would create 150 jobs during peak construction and eight to 12 full time jobs during operation. Energy generated from the wind turbines would power 25,000 homes.

Direct and indirect spending in Mason County would be $33 million and over the next 20 years, the county, township and school taxing units would get $29 million.

Shineldecker and his wife Karen are “unwilling and extremely unhappy close neighbors of industrial scale wind generators in Consumer Energy’s Lake Winds Energy Development.”

He says Consumers calls it a “park as if to give it an identity of something that it isn’t. Yellowstone National ‘Park,’ Yosemite National ‘Park’ and even New York’s Central ‘Park’ are places of refuge for people to escape from stress and relax. Consumers Energy’s development for many is a place that we hope to escape from.”

The couple moved here because they decided it would be the ideal place to being their life together. They bought a beautiful house set in the country, back off the road, with a small stream, a horse pasture, room for a garden and a front porch to view natures’ wonders with a grand view of the rural countryside.

They were recently married, and with their horses and their dogs proceeded to fit in and to actively become a part of the community.

As they met their neighbors, they learned of the soon to be wind development out their backdoor. Not the realtor, nor the seller, nor the local farmers had mentioned a word. It was a secret concealed and cloaked in darkness and deceit.

Their mortgage is signed for 30 years and they have committed everything they possess including their hearts and souls into their news beginning.

Now with the construction of the scattered industrial site things have changed for the Shineldeckers.

“It has transformed our rural, country setting into an industrial setting, with visually dominating, acoustically obtrusive 476 feet tall wind turbines with 328 feet blade spans.”

As readers can see with the picture Shineldecker took of his home, one turbine is right next to his house. “This turbine is 1,139 feet from our front yard property line and about 1,200 feet from our bedroom window.” This describes the one close to the house with other wind turbines surrounding them.

He says, “My home used to be a place of sanctuary for my family, a safe place, where we could come home and rest and find peace. Now it is a place that creates anger and inspires disillusion in man and government.

“Many will become wealthy from this push for renewable energy, others will be collateral damage, accepted and ignored by the government and zoning laws that are suppose to be in place to protect them.”

Flicker, the shadows the blades create when the sun is behind them, is inside his home. Something left out of a report of how it would impact Shineldeckers’ home.

He owns about 250 acres which is almost exclusively set aside for wildlife and nature. “Wind energy does nothing to protect these places or the animals who inhabit them.”

Upset the way things have turned out, Shineldecker says, “Michigan deserves better than what it is getting from the wind industry, Michigan utilities, and the Michigan state government.”

If the government is willing to change a rural residential neighborhood into an industrial area, and according to a number of studies, reduce the value of home and property, should the owner be compensated by either the industry of the government? Shouldn’t there be a Property Value Guarantee (PVG) so if a utility grade wind turbine is located within two miles of a residence and the home can not be sold for the pre-project market value, the property owner is compensated.

“I asked Consumers Energy to me my home at fair market value. Consumers Energy, public relations specialist, Dennis McKee told me Consumers Energy is not in the real estate business. However Consumers Energy purchased several properties essential to the project including at least two homes and part of an orchard.

“The bottom line is the were able to get away with it by Mason County Planning Commission and Mason County Board of Commissioners being so permissive to Consumers and ignoring the wishes and rights of their citizens.

“This project changes everything about where I live and what I enjoyed about being here. I want absolutely no compensation for the inconveniences and intrusiveness of this highly industrial project.

“This is home invasion and my family and I along with many, many neighbors now just simply want out. We want to leave and we want our lives back,” says Shineldecker.

What did that industrial wind turbine do to the value of your home and property?

It depends who people ask. Some studies indicate a drop in value of anywhere between 30 and 40 percent, and in some cases higher.

Canadians in Ontario are facing the same problem. One property owner on Lake Erie put her two acre, waterfront property up for sale before the turbines appeared for what three agents said was a reasonable price of $270,000. Two years after the turbines went up, she took $175,000, and felt lucky to do that.

On average, from 2007 to 2010, properties adjacent to turbines in this area of Ontario sold between 20 to 40 percent less than comparable properties that were out of sight from wind turbines. And homes were taking longer periods of time to sell.

Shineldecker said he “hired real estate expert appraiser, Mike McCann to evaluate my home and the project area. He estimated that due to the extreme view of the turbines and the nuisance stigma associated that I would lose a minimum of 30 percent value, if I can sell my home at all.

“He provided a full appraisal of my property which includes 2,700 square foot fully remodeled home with high efficiency forced air and central air, a 40×60 pole barn, 30×40 detached insulated work shop, two car garage, green house, sprinkler system, paved driveway, all on 16 acres for $257,000. He estimated my loss of $77,000 minimum.

“He also appraised other homes, one of which just sold for exactly what he predicted at 25 percent under current market.”

Shineldecker said the U.S. Deptment of Energy paid $500,000 for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories to evaluate property value loss near wind farms. This report concluded no loss attributable to turbines however significantly less than one percent of the homes in the study were within the nuisance stigma zone or with an extreme view of turbines.

In fact, 56 percent of the 7,500 home sales in the DOE/LBNL study were five miles away and had absolutely no view of turbines.

Consumers started their Mason County project in the fall of 2011.

“On Dec. 16, 2011 they moved a bulldozer in and began a turbine driveway which took up our entire front yard. The huge bulldozer and compacter shook the house. The pipes in the walls, the plates in the cupboards were rattling like crazy. Quite unbelievable.

“Their semis drove in our yard making wide turns and smashed some of our sprinkler heads. We ended up having a leak in our water line to the house and our septic tank settled and pipes cracked at the same time.

“We made official complaints at that time for noise, vibration, and smashed sprinkler heads, but nothing was done. I dug up and repaired the irrigation, my well piping, and my septic system on my own. We actually had flag men at the end of our driveway,” said Shineldecker.

The first turbine was completed this June.

It is possible some property owners, non lease holders, may receive some compensation. A $2 million fund was set up.

“Consumers calls the ‘Good Neighbor Fund.’ We call it the ‘The Bad Neighbor Fund.’ I will not accept a trivial amount of compensation for the hardships that Consumers Energy has placed on my family over the past two years and then extending into the future until we are able to leave. They have taken everything away that I enjoyed about living here.

“Money cannot replace what is lost. We just want out,” said Shineldecker.

“I am president of Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Renewable Energy. We fought for safe setbacks and safe zoning. We do not believe that good, honest, innocent citizens should be victims and collateral damage in the obscure quest for unreliable and expensive renewable in this country.

“Many, many people will become extremely wealthy on the backs of U.S. taxpayers while others are unwillingly forced to forfeit their homes and their lives. It is just not right,” he said.

“We spent over $75,000 in research expenses, zoning amendment expenses, and attorney fees to try to protect the citizens of Mason County. I have spent the last several years tirelessly communicating our findings statewide.

“We have educated countless people and have networked worldwide. In a sense our loss has prevented others from loss. It is somewhat satisfying knowing that I have helped others, but then each night when I return home to my own reality, it can be much less comforting.”

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