My Turn: Northern Pass will hurt property values
About 20 years ago, when my wife and I moved from the crowded confines of southern New England to the peace and spaciousness of northern New Hampshire, we looked at a beautiful log home for sale overlooking the Connecticut River.
The house had three bedrooms, a library, a spacious country kitchen, several imported enameled wood stoves, FHW oil heat, finished basement offices and was of superb modern construction. It sat on a bluff of 3 acres with a magnificent view up the river valley from the living room picture window. It was a $300,000 home in that real estate market at that time, except . . .
A transmission line ran through the backyard, about 100 yards from the house.
When we looked at the property, it was priced at $119,000. It sold about a year later for $97,000.
The primary concern in the neighborhood relative to that property was electromagnetic fields.
The previous owner, who had had the house built, died of cancer. There were stories, which I considered sensational fiction, of cancerous cows on a neighboring dairy farm.
There is a perception abroad in the land that living in the vicinity of transmission lines emitting EMFs is hazardous to one’s health in a variety of ways. It does not matter one whit whether the concerns with EMFs are based on fact and science or folk myth and superstition. The perception of the market sets the value.
Similarly, in an area where a large part of the attraction is the beauty of the surroundings, that unblemished beauty constitutes real value attached to property.
In assessments, a view increases the value of the property by 50 percent.
Transmission lines and towers do not qualify as a view. Rather the opposite, they blight the view that is there. Construction of transmission lines will result in an epidemic of appeals to lower assessments.
Property value is an issue that Northern Pass has apparently tried to ignore or sweep under the rug.
Its HVDC transmission line is going to trash real property values everywhere within sight of the line. This will be as true in the populous south as it is in the cherished north. What they are proposing will steal value just as if they backed up a truck and cleaned out the house.
Northern Pass makes fairly extravagant claims regarding the amount of property tax it will pay on its transmission lines and structures. It is silent regarding the loss of property tax revenue that will result from all of those view-assessed properties that will have their assessments reduced.
Northern Pass is equally silent regarding the common practice of utilities to depreciate their structures and seek reduced assessments and tax payments over time.
Deceitful is the word that leaps to mind.
(Jan Edick is former IT employee of the Commonwealth Energy System, now a component of Northeast Utilities.)