East Side Planning Commission denies power pole upgrade
December 22, 2015
After more than a year of negotiations, Rocky Mountain Power is still at a stalemate with the Eastern Summit County Planning Commission over the utility company’s request to upgrade an existing transmission line.
The Planning Commission denied Rocky Mountain Power’s application to install new power poles on Dec. 4 after the utility company failed to reach an agreement with four property owners about a new alignment for the line that runs from Coalville to Peoa. A fifth property owner rescinded his objections.
Within 10 days of the decision, Rocky Mountain Power filed an appeal with the Summit County Planning Department to contest the decision.
"The company is disappointed in the Planning and Zoning Commission’s denial of the application for a Conditional Use Permit to proceed with this portion of the project," said Margaret Oler, a Rocky Mountain Power spokesperson.
Tensions have been high between Rocky Mountain Power and several property owners since the application was submitted last year to the Planning Department to upgrade the transmission line that runs from Evanston, Wyoming, and connects with substations in Croydon, Coalville and Silver Creek. The line crosses 207 properties throughout the county and was installed nearly 100 years ago. More than five meetings have been held on the issue, including one hearing where a deputy from the Summit County Sheriff’s Office was on hand to ensure tempers were held in check.
The conditional-use application outlined Rocky Mountain Power’s request to replace the current poles with new poles about 20 feet taller. The upgrade will triple the power capacity and increase voltage from 46 kilovolts to 138 kilovolts, according to Rocky Mountain Power.
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Planning Commissioners unanimously approved the upgrades for the first phase of the line, which runs from Croydon to the Coalville substation, in February. The first phase is nearly complete, Lewis said.
However, the Planning Commission delayed making a decision on the part of the line that breaks off toward the Coalville substation after five property owners protested the portion that cuts through their properties because of environmental and safety concerns.
Commissioners asked Rocky Mountain Power to work with the five property owners to identify a new alignment for the line away from homes and agriculture. Rocky Mountain Power estimated the increased costs to move the transmission line would be $568,000 and was willing to fund all but $93,000, according to a planning department staff report.
"Summit County has not budgeted for this expense and it is not on the five-year capital improvement plan," said Sean Lewis, Summit County planner. "The Planning Commission asked them to negotiate, but when that did not come to pass they voted to deny Phase 2 of the original alignment because there was a reasonable alternative."
The Planning Department and county attorney’s office have 30 days to schedule a hearing with the County Council. The council will be making a determination about whether the Planning Commission erred in their decision, not about the project.
"My office, along with the attorney’s office, will review the documents and a hearing will be scheduled with the County Council," Lewis said, adding that a date has not been set.
Rocky Mountain Power holds easements, dating back a century, to upgrade the line through the existing corridor. It renegotiated new easements with most of the property owners where the line crosses.
"The county attorney has said the old easements are valid, but they want those to be more specific because they are not sufficient evidence of landowner approval," Lewis said.
The new poles would range in height from 70 to 120 feet and would be made of either wood or steel. Transmission lines exceeding 45 feet in height require a conditional-use permit in Eastern Summit County.
To view the most recent staff report on the issue, go to http://summitcounty.org/DocumentCenter/View/2751..
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