Electric Transmission Lines
BY JOHN SCHMICK
I believe a great disservice has been done to property owners
as a result of the article, “Electric Transmission Lines: Is
There an Impact on Rural Land Values?” by Thomas Jackson,
Ph.D., AICP, MAI, CRE, FRICS. In this article, published
in the November/December 2010 issue of Right of Way
magazine, Dr. Jackson implies that high voltage power lines
have minimal to no impact (damage) on rural land values.
However, his analysis raises more questions than it answers,
and the data he provides does not support his conclusions.
The information as presented raises the issue of credibility.
Ultimately, it is the property owners who suffer from this type
of questionable research.
The author uses the data from a single study to develop
two models. The variable, location at the county level, is
essentially the same in both models and the outcomes are
predictable. The study is based on 88 land sales with power
lines (online) and 297 sales without power lines (offline). In
any large study of this type, it is important to guard against
built-in bias through control of the data selection process.
In this case, data selection of the 297 sales was turned over
to local Wisconsin appraisers, but there is no information as
to what steps, if any, were taken to prevent bias. Dr. Jackson
does not describe the population of available sales data or
the parameters the appraisers used to determine which sales
would be included in the study.
The author describes his study in terms of rural land values
and identifies woodland, open land and wetlands. However,
the term rural can be defined as any land outside of an
incorporated city. As such, what zoning characteristics are
reflected in the study? Were there any rural industrial sites,
rural commercial sites, rural agribusiness sites or rural
residential sites? Simply referring to the data as either open
land or woodland is not sufficient to relate the study findings
to all types of rural land.
The general categories listed in this article (use, type, size,
features and location) do not adequately address the fact that
rural land prices are influenced by a number of additional
factors. Rural open space used for crop land (tillable acres)
in the Midwest may be affected by efficiency (shape), access
(type of roads), distance from the nearest city/town (zoning),
soil productivity and presence of or need for drain tile. There
is no indication any of these factors were considered in the
analysis. Rural woodland may not be influenced by these
same factors, or to the same degree, but may be impacted by
other factors such as water frontage or topographical issues.
Rural industrial, agribusiness or commercial lands have other
influences as well. Since woodland sales comprise a higher
percentage of land use data, this study seems more relevant
to rural woodlands than to open usable land.
Furthermore, where there is one utility easement, you may
well find additional easements for pipelines or fiber optic
lines, which have not been addressed. Data selection and data
classification become even more important in a study that
purports to represent all rural land in Wisconsin. If any single
factor influencing value in the marketplace is omitted from
the study model, then that model may well be flawed and its
The author indicates that wooded acres have the strongest
positive effect on sale price. This comment also warrants
further examination. Wisconsin open productive crop land
is generally thought to have greater value in the market than
non-productive woodland. Good quality Wisconsin farm land
with a crop equivalency rating above 80 often commands
prices well above those listed or implied in this article. Yet,
we do not know if ‘rural open land’ as used in this article is
equivalent to tillable agricultural crop land or if it included
non-agricultural land types. Additionally, prices have changed
over time. Does the impact of power lines change over time,
or has time been neutralized in this study?