City and school district officials say a proposed electricity substation could negatively affect a planned commercial corridor along SH 121 in Allen, including businesses, homes and proposed school district facilities.
The city of Allen on Nov. 8 filed a motion with the Public Utility Commission of Texas to intervene in—or become a formal party to—the commission’s proceeding on the Kittyhawk substation project. The city stated in its motion that the transmission lines and substation may adversely affect homeowners and businesses.
Brazos Electric Cooperative, the region’s wholesale electric generation and transmission provider, filed six possible substation locations for the Kittyhawk project on Oct. 14 with the commission, which will select the final 5-acre location. Proposed substation sites include four possible locations in Allen and two in McKinney, with power lines proposed in those two cities and Plano.
The city of McKinney on Oct. 17 and the city of Plano on Oct. 26 also filed motions to intervene, along with more than 30 other parties since Brazos’ original filing. The deadline to file to intervene is Nov. 28.
Brazos and CoServ, an electric distribution cooperative serving North Texas and one of Brazos’ members, have met with nearby cities regarding the project.
“This is just one of eight projects that are coming up in the region, and in this particular case we are talking about McKinney, Allen, Frisco and Plano,” CoServ spokesperson Oscar Martinez said. “But, suddenly when you are in an area with four cities involved and nobody wants it in their backyard, it gets really interesting.”
Officials from CoServ said the need for the $25.5 million project has been increased because of the significant population increase seen in North Texas in recent years.
Martinez said existing electric infrastructure in the area is set to exceed its capacity by 2019. CoServ officials said the Kittyhawk project would meet the expected demand through at least 2025.
Opposition in Allen
The city of Allen has long set aside the SH 121 corridor as its last frontier of high-quality commercial development.
City officials have avoided rezoning the largely undeveloped corridor for noncommercial purposes, hoping that as the broader area grows, commercial developers will eventually set their sights on that stretch of land spanning the city’s northwestern boundary.
“Our community has had a vision for that corridor for a long time, and we’ve strategically kept it the way it is,” Assistant City Manager Eric Ellwanger said. “We have certain community values. We don’t like to see a lot of that clutter [like the proposed transmission lines] above ground.”
And while much of that land lies undeveloped, Allen ISD administrators have plans along that corridor for a science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics center.
Trustees, who approved a resolution opposing the transmission line locations in Allen, received a land donation earlier this year near the intersection of Ridgeview Drive and Exchange Parkway to build the center, and have since purchased additional land next to the donated portion.
But after receiving the land donation, Allen ISD board President Louise Master said trustees learned one of the proposed Kittyhawk substation locations would be across the street from the proposed STEAM Center, and the transmission lines could run between the center and Ridgeview Drive.
Trustees believe the transmission lines would bring aesthetic drawbacks, Master said.
The wooded area behind the proposed STEAM Center location could serve as a relatively secluded nature preserve for student use, and the lines could disrupt that natural feel, she said.
The city of Allen has hired an attorney to handle the intervention process. City officials like Ellwanger have also been visiting homeowners associations and instructing residents how to file to intervene on their own behalf.
“It’s going to be a year-long process with lots of testimony and filings and interventions,” Ellwanger said. “There’s still the possibility of a settlement throughout this process if the parties can come together and negotiate some form of settlement agreement.”
The next step
When CoServ identifies new substation needs, Brazos works to identify potential sites, then presents the options for consideration to the Public Utility Commission of Texas by filing a certificate of convenience and necessity.
According to CoServ, the next step includes providing all appropriate notices to local governing agencies and the public followed by an intervention period, which lasts roughly 12 months.
Commission officials said a hearing process takes place for opposition from affected parties to be heard, adding that cities frequently participate in similar cases.
“The [process] is really an opportunity for a contested case or hearing,” commission spokesperson Terry Hadley said.
If there is opposition, a separate state agency would conduct hearings, and an administrative-law judge would issue a recommendation or proposal for a decision. The commission would then decide the location based on those findings.
In order for a party to be included in a hearing, Hadley said it must show it is directly affected by the project.
“It’s very similar to a typical hearing process where people would file testimony, present evidence, [and] ask questions of the applicant, and that is a process that could take several months,” Hadley said.