First of all, if you haven’t read Annmarie Timmins’ article in the Concord Monitor about Northern Pass developers offering big paydays to North Country landowners, you need to. Seriously. The link’s right here.
But if you’re strapped for time and just want the highlights reel, we’ve got the condensed version of Timmins’ reporting.
To start off, here’s the big picture:
“Northern Pass’s $1.1 billion hydroelectric power line from Canada is months or more from possible approval, but that hasn’t stopped the company from buying land in the North Country, in lots as small as 12 acres and swaths as big as 300.
Since May, Northern Pass has spent more than $850,000 on nearly 720 acres in the North Country, in Pittsburg, Clarksville, Stewartstown, Colebrook, Dixville and Columbia, according to property records in Coos County. The sellers have included out-of-towners shedding second homes and a pair of businessmen who’ve made more than $1.4 million in recent years speculating on Coos County land.”
Timmins also found out that Northern Pass reps “have also been quietly signing purchase-and-sales agreements with locals, promising to buy their land if the project is approved, according to several people in the North Country.” But she can’t put her finger on exactly how much of this is going on, since these aren’t actual sales. And until the sales are finalized, there’s no paper trail to follow at the Coos County Registry of Deeds.
But there seems to be a pattern,
“Earlier this year, Northern Pass officials scrapped a route that was to hug the New Hampshire-Vermont border from Pittsburg south because North Country residents objected to it so fiercely. While Northern Pass officials have not announced a new route, the recent land purchases suggest they have moved the line east, entering New Hampshire in Pittsburg and running through Clarksville, Stewartstown, Colebrook, Dixville and Columbia.”
Meanwhile, Timmins notes there are plenty of first-hand stories and rumors swirling around the North Country. Among them:
“Lynne Placey, 65, of Stewartstown said her nephew and neighbor, Landon Placey, visited her last week to say he had signed such a contract with Northern Pass, agreeing to sell his 115 acres for $500,000. She said he got a $50,000 down payment and urged her to do the same with her abutting 114 acres, Lynne Placey said.
Landon Placey said Friday he could not comment. He didn’t win over his aunt, who opposes the project.”
“A Hillsborough County couple, tired of driving four hours each way to their camp on 12 acres in Clarksville, recently sold their property for $90,000, double what they paid four years ago.”
“Last week, Renewable Properties recorded the purchase of 12 acres in Colebrook owned by a Wolfeboro couple. The couple could not be reached, but they more than tripled their initial investment in the land, according to deed records. They bought the land for $21,000 in 1991 and sold it Oct. 1 to Renewable Properties for $66,500, according to the deed’s tax stamp.”
Timmins also notes that a pair of land speculators have been actively buying up more timber, the implication being that they might be looking to sell more to Northern Pass.
To top it all off, she paraphrases attorney Bob Baker of Columbia. He opposes the project, but also doesn’t mind if landowners decide to sell. But, Timmins writes, “He dislikes the secrecy of the purchase-and-sales agreements and believes Northern Pass is implying it will take land it can’t buy through eminent domain.”
And this is only the highlights reel. There’s a lot of great reporting in Timmins’ piece here.