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November 04. 2012 10:33PM

Realtors: Northern Pass scares buyers, lowers values

Real estate values have fallen as much as half along the intended path of the Northern Pass project, according to two well-known North Country Realtors.

"The impact has ranged from making the property essentially unsalable, to value reductions between 25 and 50 percent," Andrew Smith, owner of Peabody & Smith Realty LLC, wrote in a letter to the legislative committee now studying the feasibility of burying future transmission lines.

Peter Powell, who has more than 40 years experience selling real estate in the heart of the North Country, agreed.

"Andy is absolutely correct," he said, adding that 50 percent may be a bit conservative.

Northern Pass officials said this is yet another tactic by opponents to distort the facts.

"It is important to point out that these real estate agents, who are openly opposed to Northern Pass, are not licensed appraisers and are basing their views on opinion, not facts," said PSNH's Mike Skelton, project spokesman. "The project's proposed 85-foot structures do not have the same visual impact as the 400-foot-tall wind turbines or even the 200-foot-tall cell towers, which can be seen today by many people in the North Country. In fact, the Northern Pass transmission line will largely be hidden among the trees."

Skelton added: "It is highly speculative and unproven that infrastructure affects tourism. Did people stop visiting New Hampshire after the existing high-voltage transmission line from Quebec was built 20 years ago?" Smith said his estimate of the loss in property value is based on more than two dozen properties his company now has listed in its four offices.

"'Is this property going to see Northern Pass?' is becoming an increasingly common question from buyers," he said. Smith gave an example of a property that he said should be worth almost $400,000 in a normal market. It received an offer of $190,000, with a letter from the prospective buyer explaining the low offer was because of Northern Pass.

"It is my opinion that this negative impact will continue until the proposal is either withdrawn, plans are made to bury the lines or some other yet to be determined option is presented," Smith wrote the committee, which is set to make legislative recommendations in December.

Northern Pass is a proposed 180-mile, high-power transmission project that would deliver 1,200 megawatts of hydro-power to the New England region using high-voltage direct current and high voltage alternating current lines from Pittsburg to Deefield. The project has not been approved by either federal or state regulators, and still needs to find 40 miles of new right-of-way in Coos County.

The project is being developed by Northeast Utilities, the parent company of Public Service of New Hampshire, and Hydro-Quebec.

ptracy@unionleader.com


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