Thursday, October 19, 2006
Mt. Pleasant substation passes planning board
By BARRY BURLESON
The Marshall County Planning Commission Board gave its approval Thursday afternoon for the City of Holly Springs to construct, operate and maintain an electric substation at 6786 Highway 311 in the Mt. Pleasant community.
The vote was 3-1 on the controversial issue, which will now likely fall in the lap of the board of supervisors. Voting in favor were board members Flick Ash of District 5, Agnes Foster of District 1 and Ethelene Jones of District 4. Opposed was Bill Kinkade of District 3. Joe Hurdle of District 2 and president of the board abstained after James M. Berkshire, a resident of Melissa Lane, presented a letter citing a conflict of interest “based on who you work for.” Hurdle is employed by Southern Homes.
The hot topic was discussed a few weeks back in an informal meeting at zoning.
“They (the City of Holly Springs) have made their application,” Hurdle said in opening the discussion last week in the jam-packed meeting room. “Now we’re following procedure. This is formal.”
Conway Moore, county zoning administrator, said she sent out 29 letters to neighboring property owners. The property in question is zoned Residential Estate (RE). She said she received three OKs and seven objections in regards to granting a variance for the substation.
Interim utility manager Don Hollingsworth and Mayor Andre’ DeBerry with the city, Dawn Best with Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and Gene Smith with Mid-South Utility Consultants emphasized the serious need for the substation and the reasons for the selection of that 12 acres of property.
Charlotte Farris, selected spokesperson for residents in the area, said the main concern of homeowners is property values. She also stressed that the beauty of the area is extremely important. She said residents are not against a substation, but they request it be moved just one mile west to less developed land.
Best said the substation has to be as close to the electricity load center as possible, and the property purchased is the ideal location. That’s where the major avenue of electricity is located, she said, and the substation has to be accessible for heavy equipment and it has to be cost effective; the city cannot pay an outrageous price for land.
“It’s not ideal for a lot of concerned people in the area, but it works for the power company,” Kinkade said.
Mayor DeBerry said the additional substation is not about new development. He said the electric department has to operate a sprinkler system at the Slayden substation to keep it from overheating.
“Forget new construction,” DeBerry said. “By 2008, TVA says it will be difficult to get power to you (the current customers). You can flip a switch, and you may not get power.
“I understand you have issues, but we have an obligation as the provider of power through TVA. We have a contract with TVA to do these things. TVA says we must maintain services. We have an obligation to each of you to provide you with power. This is our means of trying to upgrade and meet the needs.”
“Need is not the issue, Mayor,” Kinkade said. “We embrace the fact we need additional services. The concern is the immediate impact on property.”
DeBerry said it will not be an eyesore. He said there are two substations in Holly Springs and he lives within half of mile of them.
Hollingsworth said the substation will take up a small portion of the 12-acre site, but nothing else will be located on the property. There will be two 65-foot-tall steel structures visible. A 50-foot buffer with low hedges and trees will be put around the property, except in front where it will open to Highway 311.
“You won’t even see our fence,” he said.
An emotional Farris said community residents are “back peddling” because they were not aware of the planned use of the property until after it was purchased.
“This is a great disadvantage to us,” she said. “This is not a few homes. We have a neighborhood. The majority of the people in this area looked hard for the best place to live before moving there. If we would have known this, we would have looked for a better choice. This is very important to us. We see the beauty of that area.”
She said there are 12 homes on Melissa Lane, plus 40 others in the neighborhood, and 60 acres about to be developed for residential growth.
“They won’t buy there,” she said. “With the substation, it won’t grow.”
Farris also said Highway 311 is a main artery to the City of Holly Springs for visitors.
“Let us keep the beauty in that area,” she said. “Our properties mean a lot to us. These are neighborhoods that are growing.”
She requested the city and TVA go one mile to the west with the substation.
“It is not far,” Farris said. “It is road frontage. Some power lines come right into that land.”
DeBerry said if the substation goes west it is moving away from Holly Springs Electric’s service area.
“We looked at all kinds of properties in that area,” he said.
Best said the farther away Holly Springs Utility Department goes from the load center means greater line loss and wasted money.
“We hold the Holly Springs Utilities accountable to make sure they pick the most efficient spot because it impacts all utility customers,” she said. “This is not a joke. We’re holding our breath until 2008. Time is crucial.”
Hollingsworth again said the selected site on 311 is where the load is and the further to the west the closer to Northcentral Electric Power.
Farris said, “My call to you on the board (Planning Commission) is to have a vision for the future. Once it is put in, it can’t be moved. We want the substation but in a more feasible area.”
DeBerry said he said he did not conform to the notion that the city doesn’t care about the residents’ property.
“You can’t have your cake and eat it, too,” he said. “You want all the amenities, but don’t want us to put the amenities there. We’re not trying to railroad something. We’re trying to meet a contractual agreement with the residents of this county.”
Kinkade again asked about other options.
“They’re not cost effective,” DeBerry said.
“Time is not our friend,” Kinkade said.
Best and Kinkade agreed that as more growth comes to the area, property values will actually go up.
“We’re trying to provide affordable electric power,” Best said. “No one has ever opened their door and welcomed a substation.”
“It’s not just property values,” Farris said. “It’s beautification, too – driving through and seeing an ugly substation. There’s also a safety factor. Whose going to patrol that? It’s in the midst of our neighborhood. There are a lot of children there.”
Hurdle said development is coming to that end of Marshall County, and “if we don’t do the right thing, it will stagnate.”
He said the function of the Planning Commission Board is to hear the issues, try to do what’s best for the community as a whole and act as a “buffer zone” for the board of supervisors. Hurdle said any decision the planning commission board makes can be carried on to the board of supervisors.
Hurdle called for a vote, and then Berkshire stepped forward with the letter requesting that Hurdle “recuse himself from voting on the HSUD substation issue.” Hurdle then turned the proceedings over to Ash.
“I understand some people are not happy,” Ash said, “but without this substation people will go without electricity. It looks like with the amount of land bought, the city can make it so it will not be an eyesore.”
Ash then made a motion to give the City of Holly Springs the go-ahead, which passed 3-1.
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