Inflated Land Purchases Probed at Northern Pass Trial
CONCORD – Grafton County Attorney Lara Saffo dropped a bombshell at Thursday’s adjudicative hearing asking Northern Pass experts why the project purchased five North Country properties at highly inflated prices to the tune of $500,000 through four different LLCs instead of directly from the landowners.
Saffo said one Dalton property that was assessed for $13,800 was sold by Robert Stiles Sr. to Robert Stiles Sr. Revocable Trust then to Chalcol NH for $159,800, all on Dec. 13, 2013. Then an entity called Cambridge Trust Co., trustee of the Jack Cooper Nominee Trust, later sold it to Renewable Properties Inc. for $353,800, Saffo said.
Renewable Properties Inc. was formed to buy properties associated with Northern Pass, according to Eversource Energy’s website. The proposed 192-mile, $1.6 billion high-voltage transmission line from Pittsburg to Deerfield would bring electricity from Hydro-Quebec to New Hampshire, then on to the New England grid, if approved.
“Why did you buy the properties?” Saffo asked the panel of construction experts.
Kenneth Bowes, Eversource Vice President of Engineering, said, “I do not know.”
“And why did they pay so much?” Saffo asked.
Again, Bowes said, “I do not know.”
Saffo said: “They all sold at a significant profit,” and mentioned by name the LLCs, Chalcol Development LLC, DWH Jenness LLC, Bethlehem Ventures LLC and Haynes Road LLC.
“That’s at least $500,000 in just these five properties. What team should be talking about this?” Saffo asked. Bowes told Saffo that the Project Team should be the one to ask.
“Do you know why the project wouldn’t purchase them directly from the landowner and instead chose to go through four LLCs?” Saffo asked.
Bowes responded, “I do not know.”
Northern Pass spokesperson Martin Murray did not respond last night to questions about the property purchases.
Saffo was cross-examining the Northern Pass panel of experts on construction on Thursday as an intervenor in the process. Just as the hearing was to close for the day, Saffo listed off the five properties and asked the experts about them.
The adjudicative hearings are being held before the state Site Evaluation Committee, which will decide whether the state will approve or deny Northern Pass’ application.
A Bethlehem property went from Sandra McCabe on Profile Road to Chalcol Development on Dec. 18, 2014, for $250,000. The property was appraised at $110,000, Saffo said.
Next it went from Chalcol to Cambridge Trust Co. on Dec. 23, 2014, for $250,000, which sold it to Renewable Properties on Aug 20, 2015, for $356,267, she said.
That’s an increase of $106,267 in eight months, Saffo told the Northern Pass experts.
In Bridgewater, one property went from Puckerbrush Enterprises LLC to DWH Jenness LLC for $200,000 then to Renewable Properties Inc. in 2015 for $290,195.
That was an increase of $90,195 on property appraised at $130,800, Saffo said.
One Woodstock property Saffo mentioned shows Michael Rand sold to Chalcol on Dec. 29, 2014, for $200,000, then Chalcol sold to Cambridge Trust Co., Trustee of the DW Highway Nominee Trust, then to Renewable Properties for $316,066.
Another Bethlehem property, Saffo said, was sold on Jan. 13, 2015, for $255,000 to Bethlehem Ventures LLC, which sold it 13 days later to Renewable Properties for $363,933.
The hearings will resume on May 31 in Concord and run through August.
Click below for the story by Nancy West at InDepthNH.org