Officials in Leander and Cedar Park share views on transmission lines

Officials in Leander and Cedar Park share views on transmission linesOn March 10, Round Rock City Council passed a resolution favoring a route in eastern Cedar Park and Leander for a new Lower Colorado River Authority power transmission line.

The council’s favored route follows Whitestone Boulevard and Sam Bass Road/CR 175. Leander City Council approved a resolution Feb. 6 stating the city could support that route as one of two possible route choices.

Cedar Park City Council approved a resolution Jan. 28 that also favors the Whitestone route. Members of both city councils said they also recommend an alternate route north of Whitestone—known as Arterial H—that runs west from I-35 to Sam Bass/CR 175.

Either of the routes would connect a Round Rock substation, which is located on Sam Bass Road near I-35, to a Leander substation located at Toll 183A and Hero Way.

The councils passed the resolutions because the LCRA is looking at various power line routes in the area to connect two proposed substations, one in Leander and one in Round Rock, to existing substations in Leander and Round Rock. The LCRA has identified dozens of potential routes, including some that run through highly populated areas and one that runs along Brushy Creek’s trail.

Ultimately the Public Utility Commission of Texas will decide where the transmission lines go. According to LCRA documents, the LCRA could submit its primary routes to the PUC in April. The proceedings may take about a year for PUC for come to a final decision, during which time residents can intervene in the process.

The city of Leander’s resolution recommends LCRA avoid routes that include roads such as Toll 183A, Parmer Lane and Ronald Reagan Boulevard. However, Kent Cagle, Leander’s city manager, said he believes city leaders’ feedback will have limited influence on the LCRA and the PUC.

“They get these issues all the time,” Cagle said. “Nobody wants the power lines. Everybody wants the power. And so they’re used to hearing these type of arguments. … We know something has to happen [with new power lines], and you try to make the least-worst choice.”

Daron Butler, Cedar Park business services director, said the city recognizes the need for improved electrical services to growing communities. He said Cedar Park leaders want the lines and substations to be located in areas that will not disrupt future economic development in the city.

“Cedar Park most supports routes that follow Sam Bass Road and [FM] 1431 rather than Whitestone/Parmer/Reagan because those routes would not locate power lines and substations along our major economic development corridors,” Butler said. “Although the routes we suggested would impact some residences, they would have less impact on homeowners than the Brushy Creek Park and [Brushy Creek] Trail alignment.”

Joe Brehm, Round Rock community engagement administrator, said the city’s recommended route, which starts south of RM 3406 at the existing Round Rock substation and heads north to FM 1431, was selected using the criteria identified by the PUC for siting the lines.

Brehm said the LCRA has existing infrastructure along the route that can be modified to accommodate the lines the LCRA wants to build. He said that route would be cheaper for the LCRA, which the PUC takes into consideration, and would impact fewer homes than many of the other possible routes.

Possible alternatives

Residents in subdivisions near the FM 1431 route, including Vista Oaks, said the route would severely impact property values. Round Rock Mayor Alan McGraw and council members said the resolution was a recommendation, and the council was trying to choose the “least-worse” route.

“Do I want it? No, but if you look at the least-worse decision, that’s where [the transmission line] should go,” McGraw said.

McGraw said when compared to other routes—such as one that runs along Arterial H, which cuts through the Mayfield Ranch neighborhood—the FM 1431 route affects fewer homes. Brehm said the FM 1431 route would be adjacent to about 10 homes within Round Rock city limits as well as a convenience store and a church. He said the Arterial H route would directly impact about 150 homes as well as run through the Southwest Williamson County Regional Park.

Residents who spoke against the route along FM 1431 said the Round Rock council should have recommended a route identified in LCRA documents that would extend northward toward Georgetown, then run west along RM 2243. The route would then connect to the proposed substation by running southward down Ronald Reagan.

Brehm said Round Rock city staff originally favored the route that went north to FM 2243 but amended their recommendation because the route could cost the LCRA up to $28 million more than the FM 1431 route, and the PUC considers cost when deciding where to the place the lines.

He said the city of Leander also opposed the route because it would loop twice around Ronald Reagan, and staff was working with their regional partners when selecting the recommended route.

Leander resident Tim Thornton said he and other homeowners have been opposing LCRA’s proposed routes for power lines near their homes since fall 2015. Thornton lives in Pecan Creek, a neighborhood located between Sam Bass and Ronald Reagan near the proposed line route.

Transmission lines tend to lessen the value of homes, Thornton said.

“[The cities are] not afraid to put that in my backyard and affect a thousand homeowners that have already invested and bought,” Thornton said. “And yet they’re afraid that other businesses and developers may not want it in the future, and therefore they want to protect the future of those developers. … What [Pecan Creek residents have] recommended is that [LCRA] take a route that has the least contact, interaction or exposure to any existing homes and community as humanly possible.”

By Stephen Burnett

Stephen Burnett has been a community journalist since 2005. He joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in November 2013. For the cities of Cedar Park, Leander and northwest Austin, he covers city and county government, business, development, events, transportation, utilities and more.


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