Lenawee County Commissioner Kevon Martis

Whenever Kevon Martis, who speaks at multiple rallies against renewable energy projects, appears, false claims are sure to follow. Speakers claim that renewable energy projects lower property values or make people sick. Many times, those claims are provably false.

Martis is scheduled to appear Saturday, Feb. 24, at a rally in Mount Vernon, Ohio, against a potential solar farm there. He will be there with Robert Bryce, a fellow renewable energy opponent with long ties to the natural gas industry.

A Lenawee County, Mich., commissioner, Martis has gained prominence since his successful effort to stop the construction of a wind farm in Riga Township, Mich. He regularly appears at rallies around the country against renewable projects and works with local zoning boards to write ordinances that limit the siting of renewable projects.

Checks & Balances Project attended a Feb. 5, 2022, rally against wind projects in Trufant, Mich., in which speakers said the proximity of wind turbines to a home wrecked its value and that life in another county was unbearable, even though no construction had started on the wind project there.

Feed lot, not turbines, hurt home value

In the Trufant rally, real estate agent Marcy Myers told the crowd that an unspecified home she sold in Alma, Mich., should have sold for $80,000, not the $31,500 she was able to get for it. She later said the home was in foreclosure.

C&BP examined the list of 207 recent home sales by Myers’ company, Your Team Realty, on the real estate website Zillow and found a May 2021 sale for a home that Myers sold on W. Jefferson Road in Alma for $31,500.

That home is the only one in the list of 207 homes sold by Your Team Realty that sold for that price between 2010 and 2022, according to the company’s record on Zillow.

County real estate records show the home sold in October 2011 for $53,000 and in April 2019 for $45,000. It sold again on Sept. 27, 2022, for $113,000.

An examination of aerial photos of the property on Google Maps indicates a more likely reason for the home has lost value beyond its poor condition and unpaved driveway: It sits across the street from a large livestock feed lot.

Michigan environmental records show that the feed lotCourter Farms, is licensed to hold 3,500 animals and to release 5.4 million gallons of animal waste a year. In 2012, according to a Michigan State University report, Courter Farms produced 51,739 tons of waste, the third-largest production of waste in the state.

Relying on a flawed Illinois study

Martis has often cited a 2010 study from Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y., that shows that wind turbines hurt property values.

The website for Martis’ Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition also touts a 2010 study by Illinois property appraiser Michael McCann, which claims a 25 percent to 40 percent decrease in value for properties inside of two miles from a wind farm.

However, further analysis of that study shows that properties near the Mendota Hills and Shady Oaks wind farms in Illinois’ Lee County have risen steadily in value since McCann’s study.

For example, McCann cited a home on Beemerville Road in Compton, Ill, within two miles of the Mendota Hills wind farm. That home, according to his report and county records, sold for $367,000 in 2003. County records show it sold for $450,000 in 2017, and Zillow estimates that it is now worth $633,000, a 41 percent increase since 2017.

Even closer to the wind turbines are homes on a cul de sac on Compton’s Brook Meadow Drive, which were developed after 2005. One home sold for $174,000 in 2016 and again in 2021 for $289,000, a 65 percent increase in five years. Zillow estimates it is now worth $333,000, a 91 percent increase over its 2016 value.

Meanwhile, homes on Ogee Road in nearby Earlville, Ill. that McCann said had higher values because they were more than two miles from the wind farms barely increased in value according to Zillow estimates. One home, which McCann and County records show sold for $285,000 in 2004 is now worth $297,700, according to Zillow estimates.

Illinois professional license records show that McCann’s appraisal license expired on Sept. 30, 2017. McCann did not respond to requests for comment.

There are also multiple other reports that undercut claims that wind farms lower property values, including studies in 2009, 2013 and 2021 by Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories and a 2016 report from Massachusetts.

Inciting local residents against solar

As reporters Michael Thomas and Emily Atkin wrote in February 2023, Martis and his allies were behind heated opposition to a proposal solar farm in Conway and Cohocah townships in Michigan.

Thomas and Atkin wrote about local resident Heather Hodge encountered vehement opposition at a local meeting about the project and then discovered “that some of her neighbors were fearful. At a local high school basketball game, someone told her the project could give her cancer. Shortly after that, Hodge saw a Facebook post from a local parent claiming it would dramatically reduce property values.”

Hodge, Thomas and Atkin wrote, traced those false posts to Martis and his allies.

Worst years of his life?

During the Trufant rally, Midland County, Mich., resident David Stevens told protesters that the last four years of his life have been “the worst of my life” since the approval of a wind project near his home.

“It’s only going to get worse,” Stevens said.

However, construction on the Meridian Wind Farm only started in 2020 and the farm wasn’t operating when Stevens spoke. It opened in April 2023.

Stevens also claimed that economic activity in Midland County has ground to a halt.

However, federal labor records show that workers in that county make more per week than in other Michigan countries outside the major metropolitan areas of Detroit, Grand Rapids and Lansing.

Ray Locker is the executive director for Checks & Balances Project, an investigative watchdog blog holding government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP is provided by Renew American Prosperity and individual donors.

You may also want to read:

Claims That Wind Farms Lower Property Values Undercut by Real Estate Data

Opponents of Wind Energy in Montcalm County Stage Rally

False Claims About Infrasound Sound Dominate Wind Debates