Northern Pass’ Real Estate Expert Questioned About Data Accuracy

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Attorney Steven Whitley, representing several municipal groups, questions Dr. James Chalmers, a real estate value expert, at adjudicative hearings on the Northern Pass Transmission project before the Site Evaluation Committee Tuesday.


CONCORD  — The accuracy of real estate data used to conclude that the Northern Pass Transmission project would have little or no impact on property values was questioned by several intervenors Tuesday.

Dr. James Chalmers of Chalmers & Associates of Billings, Montana, was hired by project developer Eversource to review the impact the new transmission line stretching from Pittsburgh to Deerfield would have on property values near and adjacent to the proposed route.

Chalmers concluded that once built, the high-voltage transmission line would slightly diminish the value of properties split by or abutting the project with little or no impact on properties more than 100 feet from the right-of-way.

During the adjudicative hearing before the Site Evaluation Committee Tuesday, Chalmers acknowledged a few individual property owners could face significant economic loss along the 192-mile route, all but 60 miles on overhead lines.

He said his study concerns the local and regional real estate market, not individual properties. “In fact we have identified a set of properties that will be (impacted) and if they go on the market, it could have a significant impact on property value,” Chalmers said.

Inaccuracies in the data produced by three professional appraisers supplied on 58 property sales along three existing transmission lines that Chalmers used to help arrive at his conclusions were noted by several intervenors.

The data’s accuracy and the credibility of the appraiser who did the bulk of the work was questioned the day before as well.

Tuesday Chalmers said his biggest concern in doing major projects like his 2015 report “High-Voltage Transmission Line and New Hampshire Real Estate Markets: A Research Report,” is the accuracy of the data.

“My greatest concern is the validity of the underlying data I have not personally gathered, but I worry about it a lot,” Chalmers said. “The quality of my opinion depends on the quality of underlying data.”

He said the inaccuracies noted by the intervenors helps to clarify the information, but does not change his conclusions.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time. You do the best job you can and get the data as clean as you can get it,” Chalmers said. “In some cases, you have great data and other cases in North Country the density of sales is so sparse it is very difficult to get good comps and you have to take that into account.”

Attorney Stephen Judge representing McKenna’s Purchase, a Concord condominium association in Concord, noted Chalmers did not initially review the impact on his clients although the property is adjacent to and is encumbered by the utility right-of-way where the new transmission line will be.

Chalmers said he decided to concentrate on detached single-family homes because that is the most sensitive sector and that “is where you start. This is an expensive and difficult procedure.”

He said he did review McKenna’s Purchase after testimony was submitted about the potential impact of the lines on the condominium association and included his research in his supplemental written testimony.

Chalmers said he compared the sale prices of units next to the right-of-way with those further away and concluded distance did not impact sale prices.

But Judge suggested he should have compared McKenna’s Purchase with other condominium associations in Concord not near the Northern Pass route.

Chalmers said he wanted to test whether proximity to the power lines affects sale price. Studying relative condo prices in Concord is a whole different question than what he investigated, Chalmers said.

“The only evidence you relied on is within McKenna’s Purchase,” Judge said, “so at the bottom you are doing a risk analysis” and not whether the new line would impact property values for the entire association.

Another intervenor questioned Chalmers’ conclusion the new transmission lines would have little or no impact on properties more than 100 feet from the utility right-of-way.

Jeanne Menard of Deerfield noted her town has a view tax with a valuation guide book for assessing the value of views.

The tax assessor assigns a value to the view that is added as an amenity to the property, she said.

“View premiums are very common and appropriate and should be reflected in (property) values,” Chalmers said, “they influence market value.”
Menard said Chalmers’ report has a 100-foot limit for properties to be included in his model, yet many properties with view assessments are well beyond the limit. Once Northern Pass is built those property owners could seek a reduction in property value well beyond the 100-foot range, she suggested.

“They could,” Chalmers said.

Chalmers concluded the transmission lines could cause property values to decrease between 1- and 6-percent for properties encumbered by the line or adjacent to it, but the impact would dwindle with distance.

Chalmers will continue to testify Wednesday.

Hearings on the $1.6 billion, 1,090 megawatt transmission project to bring Hydro-Quebec electricity to New England continue Thursday before a break until the end of the month when they will resume.

The developers hope to complete permitting this year with the line operating by the end of 2020.

Garry Rayno can be reached at’s comprehensive coverage of the SEC hearings on Northern Pass.

April 13, Day 1: Eversource NH Chief Quinlan On The Hot Seat At Northern Pass Hearing
April 14, Day 2: Eversource Chief Questioned About ‘Clean’ Energy Claims And Northern Pass Costs
April 17: Day 3: Eversource: Hydro-Quebec Revenues Could Fall Short In Northern Pass’ First Year
April 18: Day 4: Northern Pass’ Potential Health Concerns Debated At Hearing
April 19: Day 5: Concerns Raised About Northern Pass Affecting Health of Sherburne Woods Residents in Deerfield
April 30: Is NH Getting ‘Hoodwinked’ on Health and Safety By Northern Pass?
May 1: Day 6: Testimony: 44 New Access Roads Needed To Build 192-Mile Northern Pass in NH
May 2: Day 7: Northern Pass Expert: 3 Months of Construction Likely In Downtown Plymouth
ay 3: Day 8: Project Official: Northern Pass Construction Limited To 7 am to 7 pm, Noise Assessed Daily
May 3: Eversource’s Chief Quinlan Listed as ‘Host’ For Sununu Fundraiser
May 4: Day 9: Grafton County Attorney Grills Northern Pass Experts On Land Buys
May 5: Day 9, story 2: Common Man’s Alex Ray: Northern Pass Disruption in Plymouth Would Be ‘Fatal’ To Business
May 8: Forest Society Calls Northern Pass Inflated Land Buys a ‘Shell Game’
May 25: Hydro-Quebec Explores Opportunities in New England, New York
May 31:, NHPR Talk Northern Pass With John Dankosky
May 31: Day 10: ‘Frac-Out’ Water Pollution Possible When Drilling To Bury Northern Pass
une 1: Day 11: Applicant: Northern Pass Would Mitigate Impact On Endangered State Butterfly
June 8: Day 12: Counsel for the Public: Northern Pass Financial Expert’s Perspective ‘Unnaturally Optimistic’
June 9: Day 13: Portions of Northern Pass Hearings Held In Closed Session, Again
June 12: Public Statement Hearings On Northern Pass Begin June 15
June 13: Day 14:  Analyst: Customer Using 300 kw Would Save $1.50 a Month With Northern Pass
June 14: Day 15: Regulator: Committee Could Consider Conditioning Approval for Northern Pass
une 15: Day 16: Speaking Out For and Against Northern Pass From Connecticut to Concord
une 16: Day 17: Forest Society Presses Environmental Benefits of Burying Northern Pass, Yale Responds To Critics About Land Leased To Northern Pass
une 21: Northern Pass Wants Controversial Yale-Bayroot Lease Kept Confidential
June 20: Day 18: Intervenors: Northern Pass Experts Failed To Identify All Impacted Wetlands
une 22: Day 19: Northern Pass Opponents Dominate SEC Hearing
une 23:  Day 20: Northern Pass Seeks 15 More Hearing Days For Total of 57
June 26: 
Day 21: SEC Members Quiz Northern Pass Experts On Wetland Protection
uly 18: Day 22: Northern Pass Expert: Project Wouldn’t Hurt Tourism
uly 19: Day 23: Site Evaluation Committee Members Criticize Northern Pass Expert on Tourism
uly 20: Day 24: Pessamit Innu, Lawmakers, Citizens, Businesses All Have Their Say on Northern Pass
July 21: Day 25: Deputy Solicitor: Northern Pass’ Tax Breaks Not So Great for Concord Property Owners
July 27: More Competition & Northern Pass Commits $10M To Help Low-Income Mass. Customers

July 31:

Public Counsel Grills Northern Pass Expert On Property Value Impact

For more information about, which is published online by the New Hampshire Center for Public Interest Journalism, contact Nancy West at or call 603-738-5635


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