Opponents of a new high-voltage power line proposed for the Haymarket area gather for a rally outside a Dominion Virginia Power informational meeting held at Battlefield High School Wednesday.
Jill Palermo Northern Virginia Media Services | 9 comments \
During an open-house style meeting at Battlefield High School Wednesday, a Dominion Virginia Power official confirmed what many opponents of a controversial new high-voltage power line suspected all along – that the project is mostly being planned for just one customer.
“The need is for the expansion of a high-tech sector business,” said Greg Mathe, a Dominion Power manager of electric-transmission line communications, in an interview during the event.
“Just like we’re obligated to serve residential customers, we’re obligated to serve any anticipated commercial load that comes into our service area,” he added.
As Dominion has said all along, residential customers would also benefit by the “redundancy” provided by the new 230-kilovat power transmission line as well as the added capacity that would be available for new homes and businesses if it is approved, Mathe said.
But Dominion’s confirmation that the project is primarily needed to serve just one customer is important to opponents of the project. They argue that neither western Prince William’s rural landscape nor its newer communities should suffer the blight of new transmission lines intended to serve one commercial interest, which they insist is a proposed data center operated by Amazon.com.
Both the activists and a handful of local state lawmakers have written to Amazon to confirm their plans to expand an existing data center on John Marshall Highway, near U.S. 15.
So far, Amazon isn’t talking, and it appears unlikely that the Prince William Board of Supervisors can block the data center from expanding because existing zoning laws allow such facilities without special approval.
So opponents are working instead to unite their communities in favor of one of several possible routes under consideration for the new transmission line and its 100-foot galvanized steel towers: a route Dominion calls the Interstate 66 “hybrid” because it would run beside the highway, partially buried underground.
Several who attended Wednesday’s event showed their solidarity against more intrusive lines by wearing red shirts, the signature color of the Coalition to Protect Prince William County, a group organized to lead local opposition, and by filling out pink forms to officially register their support of the partially-buried route.
Somerset Crossing, a 15-year-old Gainesville community of about 530 homes, brought two busloads, or about 150 people, to Wednesday’s meeting to register their protest the above-ground routes.
Jim Napoli, president of the Somerset Crossing homeowner’s association, said both the “Railroad” and “Carver Road” alternative routes would skirt the perimeters of their community, causing trees to be felled in an area the association recently gave to Prince William County for future hiking trails.
But Napoli said he and his neighbors are confident that the State Corporation Commission, which has final say on where the new lines will be located, will choose the I-66 hybrid route once they understand the impacts to area residents.
“We’re comfortable that we’re on the right side of the argument,” Napoli said. “And that’s that there’s only one legitimate route and that’s along I-66.”
Several elected officials also attended the meeting, in part to announce a new resolution introduced by the Prince William Board of Supervisors this week that urges Dominion to choose the I-66 hybrid route.
The resolution also declares the county’s intent to review existing zoning laws and propose changes that would better address the infrastructure needs of new data centers and their impacts to surrounding properties.
Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, R-Brentsville, who represents parts of the county that could be affected by some of the proposed routes, said the current zoning laws are “too loose” when it comes to locating data centers.
The board is scheduled to vote on the resolution during their next meeting, scheduled for Aug. 4.