Northern Pass experts will be in Concord on Monday to answer questions about the orderly development of the project, including Northern Pass’ property tax impact and environmental issues.
The experts will appear before the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee as part of its ongoing review of the project, known as Technical Sessions. These informal hearings are an opportunity for the parties involved in the Northern Pass state review process to ask questions of the project.
The project experts include:
Robert Varney, the President of Normandeau Associates, an environmental science consulting firm based in Bedford, NH. Mr. Varney has worked on a number of climate, clean energy, and conservation initiatives throughout his career, and served as the Regional Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency for New England and as the Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services from 1989 to 2001.
Lisa Shapiro is the Chief Economist at Gallagher, Callahan & Gartrell in Concord, N.H., and has approximately 20 years of experience in analyzing New Hampshire property taxes. She provided the Northern Pass Transmission Project with information on the estimated property tax payments to New Hampshire communities, and the direct impacts on local communities generated by the construction and operation of the project.
Dr. James Chalmers is the Principal of Chalmers & Associations LLC in Billings, Montana, and is an economist, appraiser, and nationally recognized expert in assessing the impacts of large-scale infrastructure projects on the value of real estate.
Mitch Nichols, the Founder and President of Nichols Tourism Group in Bellingham, Washington, has more than 20 years of experience working with and analyzing tourism destinations across the country. He has worked with numerous states, including New Hampshire, to develop a long-range tourism strategic plan and an assessment of its identity in the tourism marketplace.
Some key points regarding Northern Pass and its relation to orderly development include:
You can find additional information about construction of the project, as well as the pre-filed testimony from the above experts, on the Northern Pass website. Technical Sessions will continue throughout September. You can find a schedule for all the Technical Sessions here.
Recent media reports have focused on a lawsuit filed against the project and PSNH by the ownership of the Owl’s Nest Golf Club and Resort in Campton. The Owl’s Nest owners allege that the announcement of the Northern Pass proposal has adversely impacted the resort’s real estate sales. We feel it’s important to set the record straight.
PSNH has a long history of working successfully with neighbors along its rights-of-way on agreements that allow them to use the property for activities that do not affect the transmission or delivery of electricity. We believe that existing power line rights-of-way can coexist, as they have for many decades, with neighboring homes and businesses, including golf courses. PSNH owns and maintains more than 1,000 miles of transmission line rights-of-way throughout New Hampshire and has hundreds of joint use agreements along these rights-of-way with landowners, which typically allow them to make use of the rights-of-way for business or recreational purposes.
Owl’s Nest is a good example of such an arrangement. In fact, the resort’s website explains that it has been voted the best golf course in New Hampshire notwithstanding the existing transmission lines and right-of-way over the property. The power line easement and transmission lines at that location existed for decades before the Owl’s Nest’s purchase and development of the golf course.
In the years after the Owl’s Nest purchase of the property, the resort requested permission from PSNH to expand its operations and development within the power line right-of-way. PSNH agreed and worked cooperatively with Owl’s Nest on several occasions to permit the resort to use portions of the right-of-way for golf course operations, including a request to move a portion of the right-of-way in 2007 to accommodate the resort’s expansion. This 2007 agreement expressly recognized PSNH’s right to construct and install additional transmission lines, poles, towers, and related electric transmission equipment and facilities within the power line right-of-way; a provision that Owl’s Nest was fully aware of. In this lawsuit, the owners of Owl’s Nest claim that they were misled by PSNH about the terms of the 2007 agreement and its intended use. This claim is not only untrue, but is incredible in light of the clear language of the 2007 agreement.
Any allegation that the announcement of the Northern Pass project in late 2010 triggered the decline in Owl’s Nest real estate sales is simply wrong and has no basis in fact. Publicly available data clearly shows that the resort has suffered the effects of a deep recession that began well before the Northern Pass project, significantly impacting the New Hampshire real estate market. It is unfortunate that Owl’s Nest, like many others across our state and the rest of the country, has been impacted by this economic downturn.
We remain open to continuing our cooperative dialogue with Owl’s Nest to address any legitimate concerns they may have with our proposal; however, the claims now being made ignore or misstate the facts.
For our part, we are focused on continuing our landowner outreach efforts and working to address legitimate concerns with our proposal through open, thoughtful, and fact-based discussions. We are confident the project can be sited in a responsible manner that ensures New Hampshire can benefit from clean, low-cost hydro power, hundreds of jobs, and millions in new taxes Northern Pass will provide.
Detailed maps for the new proposed Northern Pass route are now available on our website. The maps present an aerial view, in approximately one-mile sections, of the entire route. Links to the maps can be found by going to the “In My Town” section of our website and clicking on the individual town pages. Look for the detailed project information by clicking the hyperlink map that is closest to your home.
These new maps offer great detail for landowners interested in learning more about the proposed design of the route and how it relates to their individual property, including:
Please note: structure heights and locations displayed on the detailed maps are subject to change based on the final design of the process and input received from our community and landowner outreach efforts.
Project representatives, including engineers, will be available to review these maps with landowners at our upcoming open house meetings and to collect their feedback and input on our proposed design. Representatives are also available to visit with landowners at their property to discuss the details of our proposal and answer questions.
Each map includes a guide on the various symbols and graphics it contains. Please feel free to contact us with any questions at 1-800-286-7305.
We recognize that the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests opposes the project, as proposed. But, it’s important to separate facts from fiction and, unfortunately, SPNHF has now produced a video with incorrect facts and manipulated images that distort the truth.
In contrast to the claims made in the video, this house, at its closest corner, was built approximately 20 feet from the edge of an existing right of way. The centerline of the proposed power line is an additional 35 feet into the right of way. Therefore, the centerline of the proposed power line would be not less than 55 feet from the home. The structure location may be even further away. We would work collaboratively with owners of properties abutting existing power line rights of way when we propose to locate new structures nearby.
It’s unfortunate that SPNHF clearly photo-shopped a random structure into a photo of a home, based on inaccurate distances and perspectives, distorting reality.
It’s also inaccurate to claim, as SPNHF does in the video, that “…more than 1,000 families are similarly impacted.” Homes can be built right up to the edge of a right of way, if a home builder chooses. In most cases, however, homes and other structures on properties abutting existing power line rights of ways are located a greater distance from the edge than the property cited here.
We understand and respect differing points of view, but we encourage everyone in the debate to deal with facts instead of fiction.
Over the course of the project, some concern has been expressed over the potential impact transmission lines may have on property values.
A project journal post from last July discussed this issue in detail and included a link to a July 24th article in the Concord Monitor focusing on the issue. The project journal post and article reference two studies Northern Pass commissioned to look at the property value impact issue.
The first was a preliminary study of the impact of an existing high voltage transmission line in New Hampshire on property values in the towns of Littleton and Deerfield by Brian C. Underwood, CRE of B.C. Underwood Real Estate Counseling & Appraisal.
The second was a review of major studies of the impact of high voltage transmission lines on property values by Russell Thibeault of Applied Economic Research
We have also previously referenced a 2008 study by James Chalmers Ph.D., an economist and real estate appraiser, that was published in a peer reviewed journal that analyzed whether high-voltage transmission lines affected the value of residential properties located in two New England states.
In each case, these studies have arrived at the same general conclusions: the presence of high voltage transmission lines statistically has little to no effect on the value of neighboring properties.
Dr. Chalmers recently authored a study (full report here; summary report here) looking at the effect of an existing high voltage transmission line on property values in Montana. Montana has unique combinations of terrain, vegetative cover and land use patterns compared to the context in which most of the existing research on property value effects has been carried out. In addition, the relevant lands in Montana are characterized by a wide variety of agricultural, recreational and residential property types with relatively few sales. The low number of sales led Dr. Chalmers to pursue a case study approach.
The Montana study focuses on 57 case studies encompassing seven property types: three agricultural, two recreational residential subdivisions and two large acreage recreational tracts. The Montana study cautions that conclusions with respect to a particular property always have to be based on the attributes that drive the value of that property and the way in which they may or may not be affected by the transmission line. With respect to the Montana case study properties, Dr. Chalmers observed that property values appear to be more immune to any effect if the use of the subject property is more diversified beyond pure residential, if the property is larger, and if there are fewer substitute properties on the market that are not situated near transmission lines. He also observed that the value of undeveloped lots in residential subdivisions (recreationally oriented) with limited flexibility in the siting of improvements and for which there were ample substitutes on the market that were not situated near transmission lines were less immune.
This same case study approach was applied in the previously cited Underwood study and it will be interesting to see how the New Hampshire findings compare to the Montana research given the differences between northern New England and the Rocky Mountain States. Like Chalmers, the methodology employed by the Underwood study was to identify an existing transmission line and analyze the assessment data and sale prices of properties that abut the line compared to similar properties not affected by the line. From the Underwood study summary:
“…Based on the preliminary analysis contained herein, there is no market evidence in either Deerfield or Littleton that would indicate diminution of property value due to high voltage transmission lines…”
2012-05-29: This post was updated to better reflect the project’s perspective.