Weaverville – A conditional use permit for Duke Energy’s electrical substation was approved at the May meeting of the Weaverville Town Council after a public hearing was held at the meeting. The request by Duke came to the council with a unanimous recommendation from the planning and zoning board.
The unaddressed 33.75-acre tract on Hickory Lane is located off of Aiken Road near the future I-26 and across from ThermoFisher. Progress plans to construct a 115 kilovolt electrical substation facility to meet the growing energy demand in the area.
Weaverville resident and business owner Bernie Conrad spoke during the public hearing on the permit, saying, “We have an industrial property that is directly in front of the property that is going to be used for the substation. The location that originally was proposed to us was to put it behind the industrial property. We also own a residential property where they are now proposing to put this substation. It’s within view and probably hear the substation as it is running. We think that’s a mistake. We think that will diminish the value of our property.” He continued by saying if it were built behind the industrial property, it would not diminish the value of the industrial property as long as it remained industrial.
Also speaking at the hearing was Weaverville resident Nadeen Hamby, who joined by Zoom and questioned why Duke was cutting a strip of vegetation near her property located in Creekside. Duke representative Jason Walls said that it was to take soil samples to see if it would support transmission lines crossing the interstate.
Later in the meeting, when the permit came up for a vote, during the discussion, Councilman Andrew Nagle, who is Conrad’s son-in-law and also lives near the property, recused himself from the vote on the permit.
Walls led the presentation to the board, starting out by saying that “I don’t think I have to say this to the people in this room, but Weaverville is a growing community. It’s an attractive place to be. We are seeing significant growth in residential, commercial, and even industrial loads. So this project is needed.” He described it as not one of Duke’s biggest substations or the smallest. It is described as being four times larger than the substation at Monticello Commons. Walls says one reason the property is attractive to the utility company is its proximity to current transmission lines serving the area.
After the presentation, Nagle asked what the town would see in property tax from such a substation. “I know what we’re losing, but I don’t know what we’re gaining,” said Nagle.
Town Attorney Jennifer Jackson said that the state utility commission appraises the property value once the substation is turned on. Until then, it is taxed like any other piece of property by the town. Walls said that it is based on the project’s cost, which is estimated to be about $16 million, and that the annual revenue for the town and county would be about $56,000 yearly.
Nagle pointed out to the council that that meant the town would be losing about $175.000 in annual tax revenue if the property was developed into housing rather than this substation, and it would be four times bigger than the substation next to Steak’n’Shake at Monticello Commons in the “middle of a residential district.”
Council members Doug Jackson and Catherine Cordell asked a couple of questions, with Cordell asking if it could not be moved out of sight of the Nagles and Conrads. Wall asked a co-worker to address that question. James Shepherd with Duke spoke to Cordell’s question. After giving a lengthy explanation, Shepherd’s answer came down to a “no.” It can not be moved.
Vice Mayor Jeff McKenna asked if the unused property could be used for recreation. Walls said he would not have an answer to that until the substation was completed. “We’re happy once that is completed to sit back down with the town and see what is available.”
When the question was called for, no one made a motion, with Mayor Patrick Fitzsimmons eventually making the motion, seconded by Doug Jackson, and unanimously approved by the voting members.