Northern Pass’s Appraisal Expert Recants and Zaps Northern Pass

Chalmers Now Says Value of Residential Land Near Transmission Lines Declines Up to 50%

Ever since the project was announced, there has been a spirited debate about the negative impact Northern Pass’s proposed transmission lines would have on New Hampshire property values.  Common sense (supported by an appraisal commissioned by the opposition) says when you run a massive HVDC line through beautiful, unspoiled land, property values will plummet.  That’s happened already based merely on the threat of Northern Pass.  Just ask anyone who’s been trying to sell a property close to the proposed lines.

Northern Pass’s response has been denial.  They’ve slapped some flawed, inapplicable “studies” on the table (for example, broad statistical studies focusing on urban or dense suburban areas without attractive physical surroundings) and stuck to the party line that their transmission lines will have no “significant” impact on property values.  Northern Pass’s “forget the facts and just keep repeating no significant impact until they believe it” position relies heavily on a study by James A. Chalmers, PhD.  This study (which is flatly irrelevant to the landscape and properties of New Hampshire) found property value declines of less than 10%.

Unfortunately for Northern Pass, the esteemed Mr. Chalmers has, shall we say, supplemented his views with new research more relevant to New Hampshire.  Chalmers just released a new study that corrects some of the flaws in the earlier research.  The new research looks at transmission line effects in Montana (a state with some features in common with New Hampshire) and assesses the specific circumstances of individual properties.  Based on this new approach, Chalmers found value declines of up to 30%-50% for residential land in Montana affected by HVDC linesChalmers also found these properties take up to two to five times longer to sell than comparable unaffected properties.

Here are Mr. Chalmers’ own words about some of the properties he studied near the transmission lines:

“Cove View Estates had the clearest price effect where the lot adjacent to the lines sold for 50% of the sale price of the lot of the same size immediately next to it.”  (Emphasis added.)

“Salish Shores was interesting in that it was hugely successful, selling out 44 lots in two years. Nevertheless, the 8 lots closest to the transmission lines took an average of 10 months to sell, while the other 36 lots sold in an average of 2 months.”  (Emphasis added.)

“Brown’s Estates, the first of the Sanders County subdivisions is a 34-lot subdivision with most of the lots between 5 and 10 acres in size. It has open, unobstructed views of a 350-foot wide corridor containing the 500 kV line and two 230 kV lines.  The adjacent lots have clearly suffered both a sale price effect of 25% to 30% and, at a minimum, a doubling of the marketing time relative to nonadjacent lots.” (Emphasis added.)

The new study is unambiguous as regards residential land affected by HVDC transmission lines.  Mr. Chalmers has knocked the legs out from under Northern Pass’s ridiculous “no significant impact” claim.  The price declines and sales delays found in the new study are highly material.  And if you think a power line opposition group paid Mr. Chalmers to produce this new study, think again.  NorthWestern Energy, which is trying to build a transmission line through Montana, paid for it.

REAL believes the results would be even worse as regards the impacts of Northern Pass in New Hampshire.  First, much of Mr. Chalmers’ work in Montana was during a time of strong real estate markets.  This can mask negative effects.  New Hampshire’s real estate market is weak and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future, which will almost certainly magnify negative impacts from the transmission lines.  Second, Mr. Chalmers’ methodology finds the sharpest value declines (and largest increases in required marketing time) are for small to mid-sized residential properties located in areas where other properties without transmission line impacts are available for sale.  In other words, transmission line impacts are greatest when buyers have a choice between buying a lot looking out at the transmission lines or a lot in the same general area with a pleasant, un-impacted view.  That’s a good working description of much of the New Hampshire landscape that lies in the path of Northern Pass.

A responsible transmission line developer would promptly put Mr. Chalmers’ new study up on the project website.  To leave Mr. Chalmers’ old study up with no supplement is beyond misleading – it is a lie of omission.

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