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Realtors say Wolfe Island wind turbines caused waterfront home prices to plummet

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CAPE VINCENT — Realtors say the value of waterfront homes in the town has slid steeply over the past five years due to the eyesore of Wolfe Island Wind Farm, creating a buyer’s market for those who don’t mind looking out at turbines.

Amanda J. Miller, broker/owner of Lake Ontario Realty, Chaumont, said brokers recently have sold waterfront homes on Tibbetts Point Road off the St. Lawrence River for up to $300,000 less than they were priced at five years ago. The 86-turbine wind farm on Wolfe Island, Ontario, was built from summer 2008 to June 2009.

In one case, “a couple of years ago we had a waterfront house that sold for $300,000 that was in the mid-$600,000 range before,” Ms. Miller said.

Though few waterfront homes on Tibbetts Point Road have been sold in the past five years, Ms. Miller said there recently has been an uptick in buying activity. She said that brokers sold three waterfront homes during the past year. Those homes, previously listed in the $700,000 to $800,000 range, sold for $515,000, $530,000 and $615,000. She said that buying activity increased after the news in February that BP Wind Energy abandoned its 285-megawatt Cape Vincent Wind Farm project.

“Property values on Tibbetts Point Road started declining about five years ago, but it’s pretty much bottomed out now and things are starting to sell again,” Ms. Miller said. “A lot of people who struggled to sell their homes had to drop their prices. But I think things are going to start to slowly repair themselves, because the Cape Vincent Wind Farm battle is over.”

Ms. Miller said a “cloud was lifted off the market” when the BP Wind Energy project was scrapped, boosting the confidence of buyers to invest in waterfront property. She said there will continue to be a pool of buyers who are interested in buying affordable waterfront property and are willing to put up with the view of Wolfe Island Wind Farm.

“There’s no more questioning about whether something might happen that will further affect values,” she said. “Now you’re only left with dealing with the wind farm on Wolfe Island, and people are starting to realize the real battle is over — whether they’re pro- or anti-wind. The burden has been lifted and the market will rebound.”

Cape Vincent Assessor Denise J. Trudell said the value of high-end waterfront properties on Tibbetts Point Road has gradually slid in recent years because of an undesirable view of Wolfe Island Wind Farm. As an example, she cited a home at 32519 Tibbetts Point Road that was sold for $700,000 in 2007; it sold in March for $510,000.

“Homeowners don’t think their property is worth as much because the view is not as desirable as what it used to be,” Ms. Trudell said. “I would say there has definitely been a decline in people looking for that type of high-end property. It has certainly had an effect on the property values along that area. But it all depends on how you want to look at it. I had a property owner two weeks ago tell me they find (the turbines) enchanting and like the view.”

Lesa M. Plantz, broker for Prudential 1000 Realty of Clayton, said that some buyers are attracted to homes on Tibbetts Point Road because prices have sharply fallen since turbines were erected on Wolfe Island. But until recently, there haven’t been many buyers interested in the waterfront property.

“When the windmills were first out there, absolutely nothing sold,” Mrs. Plantz said. “And with the continuing controversy going on with the windmill issue in the Cape, there was definitely a steady decline in sales. We had property sit for a couple of years that would have normally been sold in a couple of months.”

To illustrate that point, she said that a three-bedroom, 2,411-square-foot waterfront house on Tibbetts Point Road that was listed for sale for nearly $800,000 in 2010 gradually declined in price until it was sold in March for $515,000. The price of that home had fallen to $625,000 in 2012, and then to $569,000 in 2013 before dropping to its final sale price.

But Mrs. Plantz said she expects that buyers will become more confident in the market now that BP Wind Energy’s massive project is dead. She said an increasing number of waterfront properties in Cape Vincent has been listed for sale in the past year.

“Last year, we had a lot more waterfront homes listed, and this year there are definitely more homes on the market,” she said. “Sales are trending back up.”

While the view of turbines on Wolfe Island has been upsetting for some homeowners, buyers have jumped on the opportunity to purchase homes affected by the wind farm for lower prices, Mrs. Plantz said.

“It’s gone both ways,” she said. “It’s helped people looking for more affordable waterfront property who can overlook the situation with the windmills on Wolfe Island. But of course there are a lot of people that don’t like them.”

Trude B. Fitelson, a broker for Prudential 1000 Realty who has sold waterfront property for 24 years in the Thousand Islands region, said property values in Cape Vincent will never rebound because of the presence of Wolfe Island Wind Farm.

“The better waterfront properties will never hold their values as long as wind turbines are on Wolfe Island,” Ms. Fitelson said. “Your sophisticated buyer with a sense of design and architecture who wants something on the water is not going to want to look at those turbines. That’s not going to be their cup of tea. They’ll come up toward Clayton and Alexandria Bay because they won’t want to be there.”

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