BZA OKs electric substation

BLYTHEWOOD – More electrical power is needed in Blythewood for Fairfield Electric Cooperative to keep up with demand, a company representative told members of the Blythewood Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) Monday evening. The BZA approved that request unanimously.

Fairfield Electric vice president of engineering, Thomas Black, applied for a special exception to construct an electrical substation at 861 Community Road (TMS#15100-03-06) within the Blythewood Town Center zoning district.  The +/- 1.93 acre site is located across Community Road from the Midlands Storage facility.

Black said the need for the electrical substation is driven by the steady construction of housing in the Cobblestone Park subdivision and in the surrounding Blythewood area.  The proposed substation would be the third substation in the Blythewood area and the closest to the town’s commercial “load center.”  The other two stations are each four miles away from downtown.

Black responded to the Board’s concerns regarding each of five specific criteria necessary to grant a zoning exception.

Regarding (1) the traffic impact – “The traffic impact will be zero. There will probably be just one pickup truck visiting the site daily to perform inspections,” Black said.

Regarding (2) vehicle and pedestrian safety – Black showed the Board a section of the 6-foot high fencing they plan to use – a black painted steel screen, mini louver, 75-mesh Guardiar fence.

“This fence is not climbable and is bullet proof,” Black said.  “It will be reinforced to withstand up to a 95 mile-per-hour wind,” he added.  The board reacted positively to the sample.

The potential impact of noise, lights, fumes or obstruction of air flow on adjoining property (3) was questioned by Board Member Marlon Hinds.

“What about the lighting at the facility,” Hinds asked.  Black explained that “The normal lighting would be one 100-watt LED bulb.  There would also be LED,” Black said. “Downward facing lights will be off normally but available during a power outage or emergency maintenance.  The only noise generated would come from cooling fans during the summer that generate 65 decibels.”

Hinds questioned the security and signage at the site.  Black responded that there would be 11” X 17” alert signs and gate alarms.

Regarding (4) the adverse impact of proposed use on aesthetic character of the area, Black said there is already a SCE&G substation at the end of Community Road and that the new one will be very similar, but there won’t be as many lines as the SCE&G site has, and the SCE&G site doesn’t have the black steel screen fencing that we are proposing.”

Regarding (5) Criteria, Orientation and spacing of improvements of structures, Black said the sub-station would be located toward the center of the property.

Chairwoman Pat Littlejohn asked about the disposition of the trees currently on the site.

“The trees on the site will have to come down,” Black said.   “We try to buy the most compact sites available to save money on the overall project.  There will be a retention pond. We take all the issues into account when we choose the most practical sites,” he explained.

Because the Board is taxed with consideration of additional criteria for Special Exceptions due to the proposed electrical substation being in the TC Town Center District, the question of land use capability came up.  Black referenced the site map saying nearby parcels were zoned industrial and cited plans for a potential commercial project.

Black said this project will consist of two power transformers having capacity to serve 2500 to 3000 households.

Town Administrator Brian Cook said because the site is located in the TCD, a 10-foot landscaping buffer requirement all around the perimeter of the property would be addressed by the Board of Architectural Review next week.

Black balked, saying Fairfield Electric plans were to keep 6 to 8 feet of stone laid outside of the fencing and that no plants were currently planned for the site.

A motion was made by Board member Hinds to approve the special exception with the condition that the BAR approve the landscaping plan when it meets Feb. 19.

In other business, the Board re-elected the same current officers with Pat Littlejohn remaining as Chair and Derrek Pugh remaining as Vice Chair.

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