Opponents of a proposed southern transmission line took their fight to the Board of Supervisors, who backed their cause and called on Dominion Virginia Power to select an alternate route.
About three dozen people, many of them wearing protest T-shirts and bearing signs, testified Tuesday at the board’s bi-monthly meeting.
Dominion Virginia Power originally supported a line that crossed the W&OD trail, drawing protests from the Save the Trail group. Dominion developed alternatives, including southern routes that would carry electricity from a southern transmission station, around Route 15 and back up to the proposed Hamilton Substation.
Ken Finger, a member of Save Scenic Loudoun, told the supervisors that the organization objects to all of the southern transmission routes. “We prefer Route 7 … and preferably buried,” he said. “It makes no sense to ruin a separate track of land when Route 7 is already there.”
John Bailey, coordinator of the Electric Transmission, said the cost is eight to 10 times higher to install underground power lines.
Finger, who lives on Dunlop Mill Road in Leesburg, countered that the utility could better afford the move than he could afford to have the lines cross his land. “They shouldn’t have the right to squash all of our property values,” he said. “We need to do what’s right for the community long term.”
He said the financial impact on Dominion would be insignificant compared to the estimated 30 percent loss in property value.
Kristina Bouweiri, another member of Save Scenic Loudoun, said the southern routes would run across her property on Peale Lane in Leesburg. One route crosses the front of her property and the other crosses behind her house. “They will tear down all of the trees,” he said.
BOUWEIRI SAID she and her neighbors paid to have power lines buried when they bought their land. “We are terribly upset,” she said. “It’s devastating for us and all of our neighbors.”
She said she would be forced to move if the power lines followed one of the southern routes. “We have five children here. We wouldn’t raise our children so close to power lines,” she said.
She also told the board that the power lines would have a detrimental effect on tourism. “I feel that if they do this, they are going to lower the value of Loudoun County as a tourist spot.”
The board voted 9-0 in favor of a resolution advocating the Route 7 alternative, including the industrial portion of Cochran Mill Road. The resolution asks Dominion Virginia Power to submit that corridor to the State Corporation Commission and seeks to have the Virginia Department of Transportation continue to resolve right-of-way issues along the road.
Vice chairman Bruce Tulloch (R-Potomac Falls) said it is time for the commission and the legislature to recognize the “real economic issues” related to overhead power lines and to back underground lines. “It’s time to step up to the plate. People live in fear of power lines.”
He said the power lines pose health, economic and reliability problems.
Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) said the message was loud and clear: residents along the southern routes do not want the power lines to go through their neighborhoods. He said he favors underground power lines along Route 7, but Dominion cannot be forced to choose the more expensive proposal. “We need to provide an inducement for the electric power company to bury them,” he said.
Lori Waters (R-Broad Run) said she supported the Route 7 alternative, because it has the least impact on homes, properties and trees. She is not persuaded that it would be too costly to bury the lines, particularly considering the expenses associated with long-term maintenance of overhead lines.
Earlier this month, Tulloch tried to persuade Bailey to abandon the original proposal.
“Can we eliminate that option now?” he asked. Bailey said the power company would like to maintain that option. “It could be we won’t use the trail … but it is a viable option.”
IN OTHER BUSINESS:
* Delgaudio said that the Freedom of Information Act requires Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge) to explain why he did not vote in favor of adjourning a recent executive session. Burton responded, “I’ve always been bothered by the motion, which says that we didn’t take any formal action,” he said. “In a technical sense, we don’t, but in a practical sense, we do.
“When we give direction to the county attorney, we have in fact made a decision.”
During the last executive session, “I felt it was not a formal decision, but it was a decision,” he said.
Tulloch said a consensus during executive session might generate a conclusion and sometimes it might not. Until there is a formal vote, it is only a consensus.
* Tulloch asked the board’s Land Use Committee to study regulations governing the future use of neon lights on Route 28. He said a judge has ruled that a business in the Dulles Town Center has the right to display a neon light alongside the building, because it is not a sign. “I’ve lost the battle about something I’m passionate about,” he said. “Overwhelmingly, the residents of Potomac Falls did not want it.”
* The board approved a resolution supporting development of cardiac catheterization and related cardiovascular services at Loudoun Hospital Center.
* The board gave permission to Centex Homes of Chantilly to rezone about 32.4 acres to develop the $1.85 million Goose Creek Village South. The proposal includes 100 single family attached residential units with an overall density of 3.1 units per acre. The board voted 5 to 4 in favor of the development, with Waters, Burton, Chairman Scott York, and Sally Kurtz (D-Catoctin) opposed. Centex Homes sought modifications to the Revised 1993 Zoning Ordinance and provided proffers. They are $772,616 in cash, 18 acres dedicated to open space, $855,816 in capital facilities, $500,020 for regional roads, and $12,052 for fire and rescue.
* Stephen Snow (R-Dulles) expressed concern over a report by Barbara Munsey of South Riding that she had received “hate mail.” He said some of his e-mails are not civil. “I wonder if we couldn’t be a little bit more cautious between forming and instigating irresponsible, uncivil discourse.” Munsey said her critic wants her to stop writing letters to the editor. She has turned the letters over to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.