Power lines vs. property values

Tower proximity, visibility not necessarily negatives

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About a mile from my house sits the local elementary school, and across the street on the south side of the campus is a long, straight block of homes with more than the usual number of for-sale signs.

The only thing that distinguishes this block from all other blocks around the school — where there are few homes up for sale — is that the backyards of these homes run up against a power-line corridor, and, oddly, in one place where the power line shifts direction, there is an empty lot next to the home where a tower stands.

When last I looked, this home was vacated and for sale, but the previous owners, who had lived there many years, figured why let that land around the tower go to waste and built a gazebo there, using the tower property as an extension of their own yard.

With the home vacant, the gazebo looked sad and unattended.

Anyway, it got me thinking about power lines and home values. In particular, does the former affect the latter?

I called Dr. Frank Voorvaart to get that answer. Voorvaart, who now works in the Dallas office of the Analysis Group, recently co-authored an article in The Appraisal Journal on exactly that subject.

His responses to my questions were a little surprising because he focused almost entirely on power-line visibility and property encumbrance. I was thinking most people wouldn’t want to live near power lines because there was some health effect from the electric and magnetic fields, or EMF, that surround any electrical device — especially something as imposing as a power line.

This has been a much-researched subject, and the National Research Council and National Institutes of Health report no strong evidence that EMF exposure poses a health risk. This isn’t to say there are no doubters, and other studies have surfaced showing an association between household EMF and an increased risk of childhood leukemia.

Household EMF? That has to be weaker than power-line EMF, right?

Once again, I turn to the experts. The Connecticut Department of Public Health reports high-voltage lines can have EMF levels of 30 to 90 milligauss, or mG, underneath the wire. However, EMF levels decrease rapidly with distance from lines — at 300 feet, EMF is essentially at standard, background levels.

In most cases, power lines running through or near residential areas have easements. The power line that runs through neighborhoods near where I live in Mesa, Ariz., is separated from the homes by a corridor, which for the most part look like park areas, although some of the ground is simply left in a natural state.

I’m assuming then that around this corridor and with others like it elsewhere around the country, EMF is, as they say, just at background levels and not much of a health concern. …CONTINUED