Town leaders agreed Monday to delay a vote on a proposed electrical substation Monday after representatives from Duke Energy and Fuquay-Varina’s Spring Hill neighborhood sparred over whether the facility should be built along that development’s border.
Duke Energy representatives, led by siting specialist Timothy Same, presented a revised zoning petition that they said is the result of discussions with Spring Hill residents, who live directly south of the lot. The site is bounded to the north by Wade Nash Road and to the west by Lightwater Lane, although Duke Energy’s 12-acre property extends farther west.
The utility is seeking to have the lot rezoned as an industrial site for a new 115-kilovolt substation, which it says is desperately needed to meet growing electrical demand in the Fuquay-Varina area. That designation is inconsistent with the town’s land use plan, although the plan does provide flexibility in the case of utility infrastructure, Town Manager Adam Mitchell said. Town staff recommended the petition’s approval.
In response to concerns raised by the utility’s first presentation, a revised plan revealed Monday places the substation closer to Lightwater Lane, reducing the amount of above-ground cable visible from the neighborhood. The planned facility also has been rotated to allow incoming cable to enter the station at a greater distance from homes, Same said.
A dense, 50-foot-deep buffer of trees and shrubs meant to hide the substation from the neighborhood’s properties is also included in the site plan, as is a provision requiring Duke Energy to remove the above-ground lines that currently bisect the development.
But Spring Hill residents, including about 20 people who attended Monday’s meeting in opposition to the zoning petition, take issue with the utility’s choice to locate the substation there in the first place, no matter how well it’s buffered. They submitted a 103-signature petition asking the board to deny the zoning request.
Doug Thompson, president of the Spring Hill Homeowners Association, said he estimates home values in the development could take a 10 percent hit as a result of the substation’s proximity. Duke Energy had noted the $5 million in tax base the substation would represent with minimal demand on town resources, but Thompson asked the board to consider that against the taxable value Spring Hill homes might lose.
Marty Clayton, a district manager with Duke Energy who also spoke at Monday’s meeting, said he was sympathetic to those concerns.
“We’re here to do this the right way,” he said. “I live here, and I’m not planning to go anywhere. I want it to be a facility that I can be proud of.”
Riley Tolen, another Spring Hill resident, said Duke Energy had acknowledged in talks that it purchased the land as part of a pre-foreclosure sale. He said the accelerated nature may indicate the utility had selected the site for its low cost and easy availability rather than as the result of a careful planning process.
“You don’t locate a substation somewhere because you got a good deal on a property,” he said. “I don’t like taking the hit for a project that’s trying to get done on the cheap.”
Thompson added that his analysis of other substation sites suggests the site is atypical for the facility Duke Energy is proposing.
“In every situation, they went into a heavily wooded area to build a substation like this,” Thompson said. “In no situation did I find a piece of property that’s so exposed, especially not one backing up to a commercial development.”
Mayor pro tem Blake Massengill shared Tolen’s concern about the site’s prominent location on Wade Nash Road, one of the main thoroughfares into Fuquay-Varina, and said he’d like to see more visual buffering on the side visible to the road. He also suggested that Duke Energy look into alternative sites.
Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan