Jul 042014

Dear Editor:

Kinder Morgan is proposing to build a large, high pressure natural gas pipeline through 45 towns in Massachusetts, including Groton — and is planning to use eminent domain powers where needed to secure its desired route. For those of us who are directly in the path of the pipeline and those whose property abuts the pipeline route or is near to it, a “potential” decrease in property values is often mentioned as one of the pipeline negatives.

I’m sorry, but I simply don’t think that there’s much “potential” involved — property values are going to drop. I expect that many will drop significantly and some will drop precipitously along the proposed pipeline route.

As a homeowner with a pristine, 160-foot wide by 600-foot mostly wooded lot (no trees in the pond!), I find myself wondering if a 100-foot by 600-foot clear cut pipeline scar directly down the center of my property (as shown on current Kinder Morgan maps) might not tend to significantly lower my property value. Call me crazy, but that’s what I believe.

Here are some of the reasons that I believe that significantly lower property values are not just a likelihood, but a guarantee in the event that the proposed pipeline is built:

1.) Simple common sense tells us that property values will drop. If there are two equivalent properties and one had a pipeline easement, who in their right mind would choose the pipeline at an equivalent price?
2.) Kinder Morgan itself will be offering compensation to homeowners with whom they come to an easement agreement or from whom they take an easement by eminent domain. Now this company is not a charity and they are not giving money away — they are offering money to (partially) compensate you for your decreased property value.
3.) I watched a video of a presentation by a prominent eminent domain attorney to a group of Pepperell homeowners affected by the proposed pipeline. This is an individual who specializes in eminent domain work and who knows our town well — because he spanked the Town of Groton pretty severely in a past case involving eminent domain. This gentleman said that he would be willing to work with affected homeowners on a contingency basis. In other words, he believes that he will be able to convince a Federal judge or panel that not only did the pipeline cause a homeowner’s property value to fall, but to fall by considerably more than what Kinder Morgan offered to pay in compensation. Please understand that by taking a case on contingency, he only gets paid if he in fact proves exactly that. So either he’s just not too smart or he has a pretty good idea that property values will fall significantly and that Kinder Morgan will not offer fair compensation. Which do you think is true?
4.) Here’s one fresh data point: A single family home in Pepperell recently sold. According to the maps provided by Kinder Morgan, this property abuts the pipeline route but the pipeline will not cross it. The property went on the market and was under agreement, but when the buyers were told of the proposed pipeline they renegotiated and the price dropped by $17,500. You know what — that sounds like a significant drop in property value to me. And this was an abutting property, not one with an easement. And the pipeline is years away, if it does get built.

And here’s a note to any other pipeline abutters out there: Kinder Morgan will not negotiate with you or offer you any compensation if they do not need an easement across your property. They don’t need to. And I understand that if you try to sue them, the case will be dismissed and you will not even get in front of a judge. The fact that you used to look out at your neighbor’s trees and that you now look out at your neighbor’s pipeline scar (and whatever lies beyond it) is simply your tough luck.

Nick Miller
Longley Road