Deerfield woman seeks refund for taxes paid on home near proposed Tennessee Gas Pipeline

Friday, August 14, 2015
DEERFIELD — In May 2014, Heather Reloj of Deerfield and her family moved into a white Victorian-style home on Lower Road in Deerfield. It was her dream home and one that she had spent two years searching for from California.

She wanted to come home to Deerfield, the town where she grew up. But shortly after moving in, she received news that made her feel like turning and running — Kinder Morgan, the fourth-largest energy company in the United States, had proposed a new natural gas pipeline, and it was expected to pass through northern Deerfield.

Maps showed that the 30-inch diameter pipeline, which would carry a little over a billion cubic feet of natural gas into the region per day, would be located just to the south of her house. The company confirmed the route in maps included with its draft environmental report, filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in March, at which point Reloj realized the pipeline would pass within 500 feet if it is built.

It puts her in the so-called 900-foot “incineration zone,” should an accident occur along the stretch of pipeline, she said.

In a letter to Town Administrator Kayce Warren this week, addressed to the town of Deerfield, the assessors and the Select Board, Reloj asked to be refunded nearly $6,000 in taxes that she had paid on the house in 2014, retroactive from when the maps she referenced were published. She also wants to have her property revalued and taxes reduced going forward.

“This home, this lovely home, is worthless to me at the moment, despite its beauty and history,” Reloj wrote. “(This request) is based on my absolute inability to ask for anywhere near market value or to actually sell this home, due to it showing as sited adjacent to power lines in mapped documents submitted to FERC by Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co./Kinder Morgan.”

Reloj said she would rather abandon the home rather than pay taxes on a property she “can’t live in or sell.”

Reloj said she had recently completed a series of renovations to the property and was working on a five-year plan to open it as a bed-and-breakfast — a role it has previously served — but now believes the pipeline would prevent that from happening.

In the letter, she cited a series of explosions or other accidents that occurred along pipelines owned by Kinder Morgan and other companies in northern California. Among them is the incident in Walnut Creek, California, on Nov. 9, 2004, in which a Kinder Morgan pipeline ruptured and exploded during an accident related to work on a nearby water line, killing five people and injuring more.

“This is really impacting my business plan and my finances, because right now in good faith I could never ask to open a B and B,” she wrote. “The town of Deerfield could get sued for visitors who were fried, sued by the families of the deceased or injured. Our whole town would go broke.”

She wrote that she paid $382,000 for the property.

The letter was read aloud by Deerfield resident Rachel Hobbie during a public comment section to be included in comments delivered to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for consideration in its environmental impact scoping process later this month.

According to town assessor’s records, the property was most recently valued this year at $382,000.

Town officials could not be reached for comment Friday.