Thursday, September 21, 2006
Substation plan meets opposition
By SUE WATSON
An informal meeting at the county zoning department to discuss the planned construction of the Coldwater River electric power substation at Mt. Pleasant drew both opposition and support by residents living in the area.
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) wants to build an electric power substation on a 12-acre site purchased by the City of Holly Springs for the facility.
At the meeting Thursday, Don Hollingsworth with the Holly Springs Utility Department explained how the site was selected following a study done by Mid-South Utility Consultants for HSUD.
The substation site is surrounded on two sides by existing homes or by land that likely will be developed for subdivisions and bordered by Highway 311 on the west. Some residents opposed to the location of the subdivision say they do not want the substation “in their front yards.”
A realtor raised an alarm among residents of Melissa Lane by saying resale values of homes would be adversely affected if the substation is located there. Melissa Lane residents said they do want the substation built somewhere in the area to guarantee reliable electricity service as new homes are added in the rapidly growing residential area. They want to convince HSUD to locate the substation elsewhere in a less developed area.
When they built their homes they did not expect a utility to go in near their lots.
In a less densely developed area, as new residents purchase land, they would already know the substation was there before buying, residents argued.
Before the meeting, zoning director Conway Moore said two people have said they would step up and buy the 12 acres from the city and that people opposed to the present site have found another site.
“So, they want to know, ‘We’ve found this spot, now, city, will you accept it?’ Moore said. “Everybody wants power, but if we could work out something else, it would be great. This will affect a large amount of property.”
Hollingsworth presented photographs of the lay of the land around the proposed substation and drawings of the layout of the substation in an opening presentation to 22 residents attending the meeting.
A new substation in the Mt. Pleasant area was recommended to TVA by HSUD, he said. With increased residential growth the substation is needed.
“Everybody who lives in Mt. Pleasant has had trouble with service for years, and the consultant informed us we’ve got to do something,” Hollingsworth said.
The substation would serve communities in Red Banks, Mt. Pleasant, Slayden and Ashland, but now electricity is being fed from TVA to HSUD’s service area at the Slayden substation, he said.
The Slayden substation can feed only 400 more new homes and is very undersized to handle the expected growth, he said.
Hollingsworth said TVA provided a window (area) where HSUD can locate a substation.
The city bought the 12-acre site because it is located within the window on property open to a highway. The highway frontage is necessary to satisfy homeland security requirements that electric substations be visible to patrol from the highway, he said.
Other sites were being considered and initially the city intended to buy three acres of land owned by Phil Karr across the highway. The city would locate the substation and add a water treatment plant and a water tower on that three acres, Hollingsworth wrote in a letter to zoning director Conway Moore on February 15 this year.
One resident asked why the city did not buy land from Karr and Hollingsworth said Karr wanted too much for the land.
Hollingsworth said Northcentral’s electric system is to the west and Slayden electric station is to the east. The Coldwater River substation would be located in the central part of the system’s electric load.
“This is my window and where we have to locate,” said Hollingsworth pointing to the orange-brown rectangle on a large map. “We have to have visibility to secure it (keep out vandals).”
He said the 65-foot-tall power poles will be visible depending on where a property is located with respect to the substation. A 50-foot buffer with trees will be put around the two-acre site set aside for the substation except in front where it will be open to the road.
HSUD will under build to TVA’s high-tension lines to get power to the Taska Road area in the west and use existing lines which may be modified or improved, George Humphreys with HSUD said at the meeting.
“So, what will you do with the rest of that land?” one resident asked.
Hollingsworth said the Holly Springs Board of Aldermen could decide to install a water system for the Mt. Pleasant area on some of the property.
A resident, Jack Pitt, wondered if the land was rezoned would it make it easier for another special exception for another use of the remaining 10 acres.
“It is a special exception,” said zoning board member Joe Hurdle.
“Will it be easier to make another exception?” Pitt asked.
“We would be required to come back to the board,” Hollingsworth said. “We can’t just keep adding to it.”
“It’s not a rezoning issue,” Hurdle said. “This is allowed by special exception in any zoning district. This is an audience, not a special exception hearing.”
Hurdle said he wants zoning to send out letters and seek the public’s approval for the substation site permit.
If the City of Holly Springs wants to do something else with the 12 acres, it has to come back to zoning with another permit request, he said.
Hollingsworth said in the past substations were put back off the road out of view, but not under today’s scenario with homeland security issues at stake.
A utility can go within any zone under the rules of special exception. The 12 acres is zoned Residential Estates.
At this juncture in the meeting the zoning board asked for a show of hands of any who approved of the substation. There were four approvals and the rest were still opposed.
Forest Wilson of Melissa Drive asked to speak.
“I’ve lived there eight years; it’s my dream home. I’m retired. Other people moved here from Florida, Minnesota and Connecticut.
“We have the opportunity in the north end of our county to be in control of growth,” Wilson said.
With the new homes will come water, sewer and gas service, restaurants and stores, he said.
“Where are they going to put this, next to me?” Wilson asked. “An alternate site has been found right here (Phil Karr’s property).”
Hollingsworth said if the substation is put much further west it would be off HSUD’s system.
Wilson questioned why the city needed 12 acres, if the tree buffers would really be planted and why the substation could not go elsewhere.
“We know we need it (electricity), but you’re saying we can’t go further over,” he said.
Hollingsworth said the location of the substation was discussed at TVA’s public hearing on the system plans at H.W. Byers school a month ago.
Marty Burkshire wanted to know if TVA would consider moving the brown block (the window).
“We can’t move it,” said Dee Miller with HSUD. “We want to build where the power is needed.”
Zoning board member Bill Kinkade asked Hollingsworth if any other sites were recommended as alternates by consultants. Perhaps it is not too late to change the location of the substation, he said.
“Do we have time to have TVA (answer)?” he asked.
“I don’t see a station in the middle of Holly Springs,” said one resident.
“We had no information on this but what’s in the paper,” said another.
Another reading from TVA’s public hearing notice said the power station would not be constructed until 2008, that perhaps there was time to find another site.
He added that TVA’s notice of public hearing said nothing about coming before the zoning board for site approval.
“No permit has been requested,” said Hurdle. “This is only a discussion.”
“We wanted this meeting because we have to work this out,” Conway Moore explained.
“We are here to listen, today,” Kinkade added.
Ralph Rogers of Melissa Lane expressed dismay.
“I would never have built a $200,000 house if a substation was going up in my front yard,” he said.
He complained about the procedure of buying land for the substation then coming before zoning, and ultimately before the community, for a permit.
“Obviously, we would have liked to have reviewed before the property was selected,” Kinkade said. “Our position now is to review the options, knowing that it will cost money (to select another site).”
“When will the application be made?” asked one resident.
“I had hoped we would come to an unofficial agreement today,” Moore said. “I will now send out letters.”
Hollingsworth said he thought he had requested a permit in his letter to zoning of February 15.
“I told you that day I didn’t have time to process it,” Moore said.
Burkshire told the zoning board there was acreage available on Taska Road within the brown block that had been offered for a substation.
Hollingsworth said the offer was hearsay and the land was located too far to the west to serve as a central point for distribution.
After the meeting Hollingsworth said he talked with the property owner Burkshire said had offered to sell land. The owner told Hollingsworth he would sell three acres for a quarter of a million dollars, Hollingsworth said. The City paid about $150,000 for the 12-acre site, he said.
Hurdle closed the meeting saying the permitting process would have to go on and residents have the right to appeal before the board of supervisors if they do not like the zoning board’s decision.
“See you next month, I guess,” he said.
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