Friday, November 30, 2012

Coal: EIS Scoping Comment No. 29

Diminution in value of my home & other properties
Diminution in value is a legal term of art used when calculating damages in a legal dispute, and describes a measure of value lost due to a circumstance or set of circumstances that caused the loss. 
I am concerned that building GPT and attracting 18 additional coal trains per day will devalue my home, as well as the properties owned by many citizens, especially those near the BNSF railway through Bellingham.

I request that a baseline estimation of home, rental multi-family structures, commercial interests and industrial operations be officially documented by the Whatcom County Assessor, effective now, showing the aggregate Real Property Value of all properties in Bellingham and Whatcom County, with special emphasis on those property parcels falling -all or partially- within 600 to 1000 feet of the BNSF mainline route to and from the proposed Cherry Point Terminal. Since RCW 84.40.045 requires this information to be updated periodically, this calculation ought to be fairly simple and readily available.

The purpose of this baseline is for comparison with similar determinations to be made in the future, should GPT be permitted, built and operated as currently anticipated by the Applicant.

It seems common to believe proximity to a busy rail freight route tends to reduce property values, especially residential and commercial parcels. At least one professional report has been prepared recently that addresses this problem directly. This can be found at this URL:

This report considered the following factors, which are considered as harmful impacts and/or nuisances:

Access and Vehicular Traffic; Life Safety Issues; Vibration; Horn Noise; Pollution; Stigma and Perception; Property Types, Variables and Comments, and came to some general Conclusions:
".... the closer the distance of the property to the rail line or crossing, the greater the influence. Because of this, in general, the upper end of the range of diminution in value concluded would be expected to strongly correlate with properties located closest to the rail line or crossing. At the opposite end of the spectrum, although property with the least net total intensity of adverse influence might be expected to experience a diminution in value of less than five percent, such minimal impacts are generally considered so slight as to be effectively immeasurable; therefore, five percent has been used at the lower end of the range." 
• "Property located north of Everett with 18 new train trips daily: the applicable range of diminution in value for single family residences, the property type expected to suffer the most severe impacts, has been concluded to range from five to twenty percent of market value. Multi-family properties as a whole, are considered to be less intensely impacted for reasons discussed in this report and would be expected to suffer a loss in market value ranging from five to fifteen percent of market value. ....Commercial properties would experience loss in market value in the approximate five to ten percent range.....Industrial properties, considered the least impacted of the property types overall, would be expected to suffer a five to eight percent range of loss in market value. 
Although this report is not intended to be used to provide an aggregate loss in value for property that would be affected by the proposed increase in coal train freight rail traffic, it is felt that the total loss in value due to such influence would be substantial in terms of property market value and real estate tax revenues to taxing districts." 
• "The proprietary database provided and used in this assignment indicates a total of 21,548 tax parcels for properties identified as located within 600 feet of the BNSF main line railroad tracks in the subject area of interest, with a total aggregated assessed value of $26,556,663,168. If one were to assume these properties would suffer a loss in assessed value of one percent, the loss would be equal to approximately $265 million, which applied at a one percent millage rate is equivalent to an approximate $2,655,000 in annual tax revenue loss. In my opinion, the effects and impacts of the additional freight rail traffic not only affect the properties within 600 feet of the main line, but also potentially affect property beyond this identified zone. At the very least, this information indicates that the aggregate losses to market value and tax revenues could be quite substantial. 
I request the MAP Team take these expected impacts into careful consideration in the EIS Scoping process, because they represent very substantial tangible harm, especially to those living, working or owning property near the BNSF main rail line.