Allegheny Power to construct substation with 65-foot pole Evergreens, trees to screen structure on Parr's Ridge

September 06, 1996|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

Allegheny Power Co. plans to build a substation with a 65-foot wooden pole atop Parr's Ridge, the highest point between the Catoctin Mountains and the Chesapeake Bay.

A Mount Airy-area citizens group won a partial victory last week in its 10-month effort to get the Hagerstown-based utility to make the substation as unobtrusive as possible to its residential neighbors and motorists on nearby Interstate 70.

Frederick County's Zoning Appeals Board placed limits on the substation the company has proposed on the crest of an 840-foot hill that is part of Parr's Ridge. The hill is about half the height of the Catoctins, which range from 1,600 to 1,700 feet.

The hill near Mill Bottom Road "is like the gateway to [Carroll and Frederick] counties and the town," said Stephen A. Thorner, treasurer of the Penn Shop Regional Civic Association, a group that draws its name from its membership area between I-70 and Penn Shop Road.

"All we're saying is, 'Yes, you can have a substation, but just blend in. Don't make it stand out like a sore thumb,' " Thorner said.

The appeals board directed the company to plant evergreens and deciduous trees to screen the substation, reversing a county Planning Commission requirement that the substation be surrounded with masonry walls equal to the height of the pole.

Neighbors have some reservations about the tree screening, Thorner said.

"In the winter, we could see surveyors walking around up there. If we can see that, I'm sure we're going to be able to see a 65-foot [pole]," he said.

But Thorner said the appeals board decision shows "citizen involvement does work." If residents hadn't turned out for planning and appeals board meetings, drivers would be looking up at a pole without any natural screening, he said.

Allegheny Power officials told the appeals board that the planning commission's condition to require masonry around the pole would cost about $9 million.

The appeals board upheld a planning commission requirement that power lines be placed underground and the site be graded.

The appeals board limited approval to the first phase of Allegheny Power's plan, a 34.5 kilovolt station on a half-acre site. The utility sought simultaneous approval for a second phase that would allow the substation to expand to 230 kilovolts on a 2 1/2 -acre site.

The planning commission approved both phases in June.

Midge Teahan, a spokeswoman for Allegheny Power, said the company is modifying the substation design to resubmit it for planning commission approval. She said the utility picked the site because it is near Allegheny Power's supply lines and "because it's wooded, which would provide a natural screen."

Teahan said the pole could be used to bring underground power lines above ground so they can be connected to the substation or could serve as a lightning shield.

Allegheny Power serves western Carroll County, part of Montgomery County, Frederick and Western Maryland.

Pub Date: 9/06/96

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