Study: County land values, gas industry connected
A consultant working on a county land values and solutions study has found a complicated relationship between housing prices in Garfield County and impacts from the gas industry.Ford Frick, of Denver-based BBC Research and Consulting, told the Energy Advisory Board Thursday night that while gas development affects housing prices, some are positive and some negative.Frick’s company was commissioned by the county to conduct the study, which will also look at ways to mitigate industrial impacts on property prices. The six-month study was launched in November.He is also conducting a social and economic impact study, which got under way a few months ago.In the study, land values were compared across the county while taking into account factors that could influence prices. Besides gas drilling and production, the study also looked at the influence of a property’s proximity to highways, railroads, gravel pits and power lines. “Most properties are significant beneficiaries of gas development … because of the simple demand for housing,” he said.As the industry has brought more workers into the county so the demand for houses has grown.The gas industry “is the single most powerful growth element in western Garfield County,” Frick said.For those properties located close to drilling activity, or which have wells on them, values have decreased. But he also found that this is in most cases a temporary condition. Once wells are drilling and go into production, with much less activity surrounding them, they can gain back at least some of their value.However, Frick said he also found an equally powerful element in land value is the perception of owners, buyers and real estate and mortgage brokers that the uncertainty of the industry negatively affects selling prices. In addition, drilling affects residents’ quality of life. Residents of areas where drilling is closest to homes, notably near Silt and Rifle, complain about odors, dust, noise and truck traffic. For them the impacts have a negative impact on their way of life.Frick also pointed out that there are positive effects as well. The industry has brought long term employment opportunities to western Garfield County. Many land owners have also profited from gas development through lease payments and, in the case of mineral owners, royalties.Frick’s study will also identify means for lessening the negative impacts of gas development. Education as a necessary component, he said, especially for appraisers and brokers who many not be informed about the life cycle of well drilling and production, with their attendant and varied impacts.Gas operators can also use best management practices to ameliorate environmental impacts, he said.One of the questions Frick said he continues to ask is, “How can we self-regulate this activity and how can we reduce people’s perception of risk” from gas operations, risks associated with potential affects on quality of life and the environment.
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