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Power lines’ impact debated  

Credit:  By Nick Gevock of The Montana Standard, mtstandard.com 18 April 2012 ~~

Major power lines overall have a limited impact on property values, but also can lower the value of some smaller parcels as well as driving up the time it takes for them to sell.

That was among the conclusions that Jim Chalmers, Ph.D, an economist, presented Tuesday at Montana Tech during a talk put on by the MSTI Review Project. The collaborative group made up of county commissioners and nonprofit groups is studying NorthWestern Energy’s proposed 500 kV power line.

Chalmers said overall the effects were less, yet he cautioned that his study used an existing high-power line in Montana that has been around for 30 years. And buyers consider that when looking at a property.

“You knew exactly where the line was, you knew how high the towers were going to be,” he said. “In the studies we did, the buyer chose that property; in this case the property owner had the line imposed on them.”

The Mountain States Transmission Intertie, or MSTI, is proposed to be built from near Townsend and run through southwest Montana to southern Idaho. The line has caused a heated debate and some landowners have spoken out with concerns that it will lower their property values.

Chalmers led the study that looked at a similar 500 kV line running across Montana. The study came to three main conclusions: the more a property was for residential use, the more likely it was to lose value; smaller parcels were more prone to see a lower value; and properties with a similar parcel available for sale were more vulnerable to see a value reduction.

But he said with larger ranches, the study found no effects on the price of the property.

That drew criticism from a panel of real estate agents.

Kevin Pearce, a broker-owner with New Frontier Ranches in Twin Bridges, said the study only addressed an existing line and didn’t consider the effects during construction of a power line. He said the presence of a power line can completely shut out some buyers.

“A top-tier buyer is not going to be interested, period,” he said. “Then you’re going to be left with a second-tier buyer and a reduced price.”

Pearce said what’s needed is a study specific to MSTI.

And Katie Ward, a broker with her own company in Sheridan and Missoula, said buyers often ask for properties without power lines even on the larger tracts.

“In this economy, people have choices, even with the bigger properties,” she said.

The brokers agreed that the uncertainty of where MSTI will be built has spooked some buyers. In one case in Beaverhead County, a proposed subdivision was dropped over those concerns, said Vana Taylor, a broker with Bramlette and Co. Realtors in Dillon.

“We really can’t put a price on it because we don’t know where it’s going to be located,” she said.

Jefferson County Commissioners Leonard Wortman and Tom Lythgoe said their preference is that MSTI get built on public land so it doesn’t affect private property values.

“We shouldn’t be messing up the current owners, property values and viewsheds,” Lythgoe said.

But Ted Williams, an engineer with wind energy company Gaelectric, said if that’s done, the project would be delayed up to a decade because groups would fight it.

“All of these efforts to put it on public land are just an effort to kill the line,” he said. “It simply won’t get done because it will take too long.”

Source:  By Nick Gevock of The Montana Standard, mtstandard.com 18 April 2012

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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