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Pipeline 1, home sales 0

TOWNSEND — The last communication that a real estate agent wants to get is cancellation of a sale.

The transaction should have been a done deal. Realtor Paul Nicoli worked with a Townsend client who wanted to move within town. The seller wanted to sell the home.

An offer was made and accepted.

Then withdrawn.

Niles Busler, co-owner of KKing 11/6/14 I think this spelling of Squanacook is wrong Squanicook Associates Real Estate, where Nicoli works, gave him the bad news.

“I regret to inform you that Mark and I are going to have to withdraw our offer to purchase 94 New Fitchburg Road. We have recently learned that the pipeline is planned for installation in the conservation area behind that house. While we know that this is not a definite, we just cannot take that risk.”

The three-bedroom house abutting a state park was set at $388,400. The original asking price was $389,999.

The proposed high-pressure, natural gas pipeline is affecting home values, Nicoli said.

Good, hard-working people are thinking about leaving town, he said. The buyers who withdrew the offer live in Townsend and instead of moving within town as originally planned, intend to leave.

“The pipeline freaked her out,” Nicoli said.

“I’m hearing a lot of people that don’t want to be anywhere near it,” he said.

After the sale fell through, Busler immediately fired off emails to the Massachusetts Association of Realtors. One of the things the organization champions are peoples’ property rights.

The attorney at MAR said that allowing eminent domain for pipeline easement is at a federal level and he is not sure much can be done on a state level, Busler said.

“Let’s face it,” Busler said, “the Supreme Court gave it away several years ago when it said corporations have the right to take by eminent domain.”

Pipeline builders and pipeline opponents do not agree on the possible effects of property values from the pipeline.

Kinder Morgan proposed the pipeline that would run across much of the northern part of Massachusetts. The website states:

“The pipeline and associated easement should not impact the value of your property. Multiple studies across the country have found minimal to no correlation between a property’s sales price and its vicinity to a gas transmission pipeline.”

An abstract of one of the articles cited to support this statement reads, “We find that there is no credible evidence based on actual sales data that proximity to pipelines reduces property values.”

The study, “Pipelines and property values: an eclectic review of the literature,” was published in the Journal of Real Estate Literature, 2012, volume 20, issue 2, page 245 in July 2012.

Other sources disagree.

After a rupture of a pipeline in Virginia in 1993 that caused damage to “very few properties,” a study found a four to five and a half percent loss in home values within two miles of the rupture and a loss of one to two percent in value for homes within 10 miles of the easement.

The study, “The effect of pipeline ruptures on noncontaminated residential easement-holding property in Fairfax County,” was conducted by R.A. Simons and published by the Appraisal Journal in 1999. It was cited in “Environmental Hazards and Residential Property Values: Evidence from a Major Pipeline Event,” written by professors at Western Washington University.

The impact on local property values is difficult to determine, Busler said, but he is confident the pipeline, if built, will have a long-term effect.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the Kinder Morgan pre-filing for the proposed Northeast Energy Direct Project on Oct. 2.

The company released maps with an alternative path for the pipeline on Nov. 5. The alternative route goes through many of the same communities as the original route.

As part of the pre-filing process with FERC, Kinder Morgan scheduled open houses in Massachusetts and New York in Massachusetts and New York. At the request of Reps. Niki Tsongas and James McGovern, the gatherings have been postponed., opposers of the pipeline, will hold a statewide summit on Nov. 15 at the Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical High School in Fitchburg.

Follow Anne O’Connor on Twitter and Tout @a1oconnor.