jameswburdick.commission delays buying land for substation expansion
The Tallahassee City Commission has decided to hold off on buying land in a northeastern neighborhood for a future substation expansion outside the city limits to give staff and residents more time to explore other locations.
After hearing from several vocal homeowners who frequently interrupted the city commissioners’ discussion on the item Wednesday night, the commission voted unanimously to pull the item from the agenda.
“Perhaps we can come back after summer break with some ideas,” Commissioner Gil Ziffer said. Each year, the commission takes off during the month of August. "We want to do this right and make sure homeowners are engaged. We can work with homeowners to decide whether this is best place or look at other options."
As the Democrat reported Tuesday, staff placed the item on the agenda to buy a house on Spencer Drive for $415,000. The house was offered by a retired police captain and his wife, who said they were moving to Atlanta.
The Back Story: Substation location causes concern among northside homeowners
体育在线365Ziffer had the item pulled off the consent agenda for discussion after residents of the Spencer Drive/ Saralee Lane community contacted him and County Commissioner Bryan Desloge.
About three dozen residents from there and the Ox Bow community across the street showed up wearing yellow T-shirts opposing the power substation expansion. Because it's outside the city limits, the residents aren't represented on the City Commission.
体育在线365It's the latest example of a neighborhood uproar over proposed development, with residents filling seats and lining up at the podium to express their concerns.
“We’re a very small neighborhood, but we wanted to voice ourselves and let you know we are against the proposed substation expansion,” Russell Mick of Saralee Lane said. “We feel like it is going to massively alter the landscape to the detriment of our homes.”
Mick asked for transparency and an opportunity to work with city staff on alternate locations.
体育在线365“As you can tell by my name, I have deep roots in the Ox Bottom Road area,” said Sandra Spencer Miller, who said her family goes back three generations.
Her father, Clyde Spencer developed the area to be a tranquil, wooded area for people to raise families and be proud of where they live.
“This is an egregious taking of the pride of our neighborhood,” Miller said.
体育在线365Homeowners thought this issue had been dispensed with two years ago when the city commission voted to keep the existing substation where it is, in adjacent Rosehill.
体育在线365Interim City Manager Reese Goad said the substation was never intended to be permanent and staff knew all along that eventually it would have to be expanded.
体育在线365It was originally built on a temporary easement in the Rosehill subdivision due west of the Spencer Drive neighborhood, but in 2016 the city signed an agreement with the Rosehill Homeowners Association making it permanent.
"That brought permanency to that location, but we knew we would need to expand that substation at some time and the existing land was not adequate," Goad said.
There is no projected need for additional capacity at the moment and it isn't likely to be needed for almost a decade, Goad said, but when the property owner reached out to the city staff thought it was worth considering.
体育在线365"If you authorized the purchase it would be option for future expansion, with no changes for the immediate future," Goad explained.
体育在线365If the city bought the property, it would build a compact substation that would not take up much of the 1.56 acres being considered, and not block the subdivision's entrance, Goad said.
体育在线365That would leave plenty of room for landscaping and a berm, Ziffer said, and even said part of the property could be turned into a park.
体育在线365Commissioners Scott Maddox and Curtis Richardson thanked staff for bringing the item to their attention.
"I don’t want to replace problems in one neighborhood with problems in another neighborhood," Maddox said. "We try our best as a government not to disrupt people."
On the other hand, he said, there is a demand for public utilities and he hoped staff would exhaust all options finding a suitable location for the expansion.
"What I am going to ask for is that we discuss what the other options are, but those come with a price," Richardson said.
He suggested that County Commissioner Bryan Desloge, who objected to the location of the substation, should ask his colleagues to see if they'd help pay for another location.
体育在线365"If this community is willing to pay that hefty price, I'm good with it," Richardson said.
It's inevitable that the city is going to have to deal with expanding existing substations and building new ones, he said.
体育在线365"We have to make sure we can provide utilities," Richardson said. "I commend staff for their forward thinking, looking ahead 10 years to plan community needs so when you flip your switch your lights come on."
Contact Schweers at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeffschweers.