Wednesday, October 10, 2012

GPT: EIS Scoping Comment No. 17

Impacts on Property Values, Taxes & Levels of Service

As a property owner, taxpayer and user of public services, I am concerned about the possible adverse impacts on the three listed topics above from a dramatic increase in coal trains passing through Bellingham to service the proposed GPT facility.

I request that a comprehensive evaluation be conducted to determine to what level these three topics might be affected by an additional 18 coal trains per day.
The results of this evaluation need to be incorporated into an overall cost-benefit analysis for GPT.

The value of my home will likely be reduced for the reason that there are no municipalities similar to Bellingham that I know of which have had property values increase as a result of significantly greater freight train traffic, particularly 1.5 mile long, unit coal trains.
Real estate professionals know -and often say- that property values depend on three things; location, location and location.
Conversely, railroads have been often associated with generally depressing property values, especially once a town or City is well established.
In fact, the term 'shanty town' is used to describe some unfortunate communities that met this fate.

The taxes I pay to Whatcom County & Bellingham may need to be raised more than usual because of the need to raise funds to mitigate problems the added trains will likely bring; things like grade-separated crossings to maintain normal safety for citizens, noise barriers, pedestrian crossings and the like.

Levels of service for police, fire and EMS may be reduced because of blocked rail crossings, leaving these externalized costs to be borne by citizens and businesses, not GPT.
Maintaining adequate and customary levels of service will likely account for a significant proportion of otherwise necessary tax increases.
GPT related activities will add to this problem by requiring services not now needed, due to accidents, emergencies and general congestion directly connected with GPT operations.

The sum of all these impacts will end up being borne by taxpayers, unless substantial mitigation can be obtained from GPT investors and partners.
This amount needs to be determined during the EIS, so that any mitigation can be quantified, assessed and exacted from the Applicant.