BY LINDA BENTLEY | SEPTEMBER 12, 2012
Except as noted, the town would express no view on the location of the 69-kV line within the jurisdictional limits of any other municipality
Photo by Linda Bentley
CAVE CREEK – Monday was the first in a series of community meetings Mayor Vincent Francia scheduled to discuss the APS 69-kV power line siting project with the affected parties.
“APS will make the decision,” said Francia, adding, Cave Creek and the town council are probably at the bottom of the pecking order when it comes to input.
He said Maricopa County Parks and Recreation was the first to weigh in against the power poles traversing Cave Creek Regional Park, an option originally considered by APS.
Francia informed neighbors that the town doesn’t have a lot of bargaining power with the city of Phoenix since it would be receiving no benefit from the project.
He also said he spoke to the Arizona State Land Department, which also does not want power poles along Carefree Highway because it will devalue the price of its land when it comes up for auction.
While the engineers at APS liked the “do-nothing” approach, Francia said the legal department did not, citing liability issues if something were to happen to a customer as the result of an outage.
What it all boils down to is APS needs to upgrade the substation.
And, because APS does not require permission from the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) for 69-kV lines, Francia said citizens do not have the ACC as a buffer to what APS ultimately decides to do.
When Francia, Vice Mayor Ernie Bunch, Phoenix City Councilman Jim Waring and others met with Richard Stuhan, the APS project manager, Stuhan told them the decision was ultimately up to APS.
Francia said he told Stuhan that he’s been the mayor of Cave Creek for 16 years and they were a feisty bunch, and joked that if APS didn’t consider their concerns they may find their tires slashed and their holes filled in.
Sadly, in relaying that anecdote during Monday night’s meeting, in a recap e-mail sent out Beth Longbrake, who organized the meeting, she wrote, “APS made it very clear that they make the decision! We can only influence at best. The Mayor urged APS to consider the Cave Creek residents concerns. When the Project Manger Richard Stuhan got cocky with the mayor, the mayor warned him not to go up against the residents of Cave Creek if they didn’t want to see their tires slashed, windows broken, and other retaliation.”
Francia said he never said anything about broken windows and what he said at that meeting was said in jest and was taken as such.
In discussions with APS, Francia suggested moving the plant to the town-owned property on Carefree Highway where the wastewater treatment plant is located.
Francia said the town could sell the site to APS for $1 and in exchange perhaps APS could bury the lines underground.
However, the cost to move the substation was unknown, but the mayor said he would ask APS.
The shortest of the five suggested routes to consider burying the lines underground is 3.4 miles along Carefree Highway, which would cost $10 million.
If APS were to bury the lines fronting the state land on Carefree Highway, the cost would be $3.8 million and still would not address the problem for the people who live in the Whispering Hills and Estado de Cholla subdivisions, whom Francia was scheduled to meet with on Tuesday and Wednesday.
And, while APS has the authority to exercise the power of eminent domain that is something APS has said it will only do as a last resort.
Francia has also been working with Town Attorney Gary Birnbaum to draft a resolution, which will be presented for council’s approval at the Sept. 17 council meeting. He said it was imperative that Cave Creek also go on record with its preferences as all the other jurisdictions have done.
He also stated APS has given the town until the end of October to present its comments.
The resolution, as currently drafted, expresses the town’s concerns regarding the effect the new 69-kV lines, connecting Cave Creek to the Gavilan Peak Substation, will have on nearby residential neighborhoods and environmentally sensitive lands, and that three of the five potential routes under consideration by APS may place a disproportionate share of the adverse consequences on certain residential neighborhoods.
The resolution also states the town appreciates the positive interaction it has had with APS and expresses a desire for a continuing productive dialogue concerning the project.
Given the significant potential ramifications of the location of the proposed 69-kV line on the enjoyment by town residents of their properties, and the preservation and enjoyment of environmentally sensitive lands, the town, via the resolution, states it is critical that APS continue to involve the town in all aspects of the line siting process.
Because the limited number of alternative routes will each directly affect the town of Cave Creek, some of which will have a significant adverse impact upon certain residential neighborhoods within the town, the resolution was prepared to clearly and concisely communicate the town’s concerns and objectives to APS.
The resolution specifically opposes the proposed routes that extend to the west, from the intersection of Cave Creek Road and Carefree Highway, specifically the Cloud Road route would disturb and negatively impact the enjoyment of residential neighborhoods in the area; the Carefree Highway route would similarly negatively impact residential properties abutting Carefree Highway, including the Estado de Cholla and Whispering Hills developments, as well as environmentally sensitive lands in the area.
As an alternative, the town is suggesting a Cave Creek Road alignment within the Town (pink/blue routes on the APS’ Alternative Map) while further supporting a location for the 69-kV line that exits the Cave Creek Substation in a northerly direction on Basin Road to its connection with Cave Creek Road (then west/south on Cave Creek Road), so as to avoid an adverse effect on existing residences on or near Skyline Drive.
And, except as noted, the town would express no view on the location of the 69-kV line within the jurisdictional limits of any other municipality.
The mayor said rerouting the line north along Basin Road, where there would be far less residential impact, instead of Skyline Drive to connect to Cave Creek Road would add .7 miles to the project.
Francia encouraged citizens to attend the Sept. 17 meeting, when council will be voting on the resolution to make the town’s position clear to APS, stating citizens can voice their support of the town’s position.
He also said he would ask Stuhan for the cost of moving the substation.
After the meeting a few of the attendees commented about how fortunate they felt to have a mayor who actually cares about the concerns of his citizens.