What About My House Value?

April 11, 2017
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Kim Arthur of Middletown stands where she believes is the future site of a 110 to 140-foot monopole, right in her front yard. If the MCRP is approved, she says her family will have to move. All photos by Jay Cook.

By Jay Cook |

MIDDLETOWN – Some residents who reside along the rail line are growing concerned that the proposed 10- mile long JCP&L transmission line could zap their home values.

Middletown resident Kim Arthur, who lives on Navesink River Road in the River Plaza section, was taken aback by news from her real estate agent that her property has already lost value, due to its proximity to a potential monopole location on the NJ Transit North Jersey Coast Line.

“This was it for us,” Arthur said, referring to what she previously believed was a near-million-dollar property. “It was our forever home and our investment.”

Home sellers living in the five Monmouth County towns whose homes are located next to the proposed Monmouth County Reliability Project (MCRP) corridor, are wondering about their next move, as they await a decision on the Jersey Central Power & Light Co. (JCP&L) project in the coming months. The project is now in the midst of evidentiary hearings.

And even before a decision by the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to approve the project has been announced, homeowners say they are already seeing the effects on their real estate values.

Based on preliminary designs acquired by the citizen action group Residents Against Giant Electric (RAGE) through OPRA requests to NJ Transit, residents along the rail line are able to see where JCP&L had preliminary plans to place monopoles necessary for the 230 kV transmission line project, which would run from Aberdeen through Hazlet, Holmdel, Middletown, ending in Red Bank.

In Arthur’s case, according to designs from 2015 which are not yet finalized, there would be a monopole on the corner of her front yard, which abuts the rail line. According to JCP&L’s petition to the BPU for the project, the pole heights in her section would range between 110-and 140-feet tall.

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After purchasing the property 15 years ago for $525,000, Arthur had her home appraised at $900,000 by the Manchester-based ABC Jersey Appraisals, LLC last May, prior to the public announcement of the MCRP. It came after the completion of major renovation to the first-floor layout of her home.

Though just last month, after meeting with Heritage House Sotheby’s to seek their current market value, their new range was between $700,000 and $745,000.

“It’s a hard pill to swallow,” Arthur said.

Arthur is now planning for a move she never saw coming. “We have two children, and we have to do what’s best for them,” Arthur added, saying potential electromagnetic field radiation from transmission lines scares her. “We’ve been looking at properties and homes and saying that we might just have to sell our property and do what’s right.” Concerns about real estate values are also being discussed in Cedar Village in Holmdel, an active adult community that is within 200 feet of the NJ Transit North Jersey Coast Line.

Joe De John, a resident of the Cedar Village community in Holmdel, lives within 200 feet of the proposed project. He fears his property values will plummet if the powerline project is allowed.

In 2005, Joe De John bought a Sonoma model home for around $500,000. Beyond his back patio, which has a few chairs and a small grill, is a thick barrier of lush wetlands. He said his backyard was one of the many stops NJ Transit officials made in November when they toured the line of the proposed MCRP. “If you want to put the poles up, put them on the parkway,” De John said. “Just don’t do it over our homes.”

For many of the residents in the 158-unit complex, these homes would be their last purchase after downsizing from multistory and multi-bedroom homes. Some hope the proceeds from a sale of their final home will be passed down to children and grandchildren.

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“If I put my house up after the poles are installed, and people actually see what they look like, I’m lucky if I sell it,” De John said.

While concerns about the home values are growing as the petition process continues, JCP&L has held steady on its view that the MCRP would not have an ill effect on property values.

In the Aug. 9 petition to the BPU, the utility provided written testimony from Jerome J. McHale, a principal in J. McHale & Associates, Inc.

He testified the MCRP would not have a negative effect of the proposed area.

“The ROW (right-of-way) has been in place for many decades; therefore, any possible negative impact on market value has been already realized in the sale and resale values of these properties due to their location abutting active commuter rail service,” he wrote.

That belief conflicts with what some local real estate agents believe.

Michele Agosta, a real estate agent with Holmdel-based Neuhaus Realty, Inc., says three of her sales in Hazlet within the past eight months have fallen apart due to buyer concerns over the MCRP.

Agosta says she morally has to tell buyers about the impending project, something that not all real estate agents are doing. She added that first-time buyers often stay away from eyesores along properties.

“Just looking at it that way, on top of the health risks, people are fleeing,” she said.

Hazlet Mayor Sue Kiley has also had firsthand experiences with homes not selling.

In her position as a sales associate with Gloria Nilson & Co. Real Estate, Kiley said sales near the rail line now require more paperwork.

“We have disclosure forms that both the buyers and sellers sign stating they’re aware this project may happen,” she said.

Kiley said Hazlet is the most densely populated of the five towns along the proposed route. And while her town may be seeing more for-sale signs than ever before, she believes the concerns include all five towns.

“What is happening, hands down,” Kiley said, “is that people are saying they don’t want to see anything close to the tracks.”

This article was first published in the April 6-13, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.

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