Thu, June 27

Proposal for new APS substation put on hold by Clarkdale Planning commission

Ryan Weed, of CVL Consultants, leads a site visit of the proposed APS substation in Clarkdale on SR89A  Tuesday. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

Ryan Weed, of CVL Consultants, leads a site visit of the proposed APS substation in Clarkdale on SR89A Tuesday. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

CLARKDALE -- The Clarkdale Planning Commission Tuesday decided to table a zoning request by Arizona Public Service for a substation along SR89A.

The commission gave town staff specific directions to come back with more information at the commission’s next meeting June 18.

Tuesday, about 50 members of the public gathered to hear a presentation by APS.

“We had 14 in opposition and one in support,” Clarkdale Planning Manager Beth Escobar said referring to the residents who spoke to the commission about the zoning change.

Specifically, Escobar said the commissioners requested town staff to come back with information about the substation’s conformance with the town’s general plan, to research spot zoning concerns, look at the zoning history of the SR89A corridor between Clarkdale and Jerome and to provide aerial photos of the site.

The town inherited the current zoning of the property from Yavapai County in the 1970s, she said.

“The General Plan designation of Neighborhood Commercial does allow for low-impact services, which we consider the sub-station to fit under,” Escobar said.

APS wants to build a new substation to meet current and future energy needs and to support the two substations the electric utility already has in Cottonwood and Cornville, according to Ryan Weed, CVL Consultants.

The site is 2.3 acres and will contain transformers that convert 69kV lines to 12 kV lines used to serve home and businesses, according to APS. The open-air facility will have a 10- to 11-foot tall wall surrounding the electrical equipment, according to Weed. APS has already purchased the property.

The substation will be next to a new Verde Valley Fire District station, which has not been built yet, and between Number 1 Food Store the Arizona Botanical Gardens on the same side of SR89A.

During Tuesday’s public hearing, residents expressed concerned that SR 89A from Clarkdale to Jerome was a scenic highway and a transformer substation would hurt tourism for both towns. They argued that another site in town could be located. Others expressed health concernsover having such a facility next to a residential area. Others argued that residential-commercial neighborhood designations shouldn’t include substations, and expressed concern about property values of nearby homes.

Kendra Lee, program manager for APS, had to respond to one woman’s concerns that there could be explosions or fires at the substation.

“That can catch fire,” Lee said of the transformers. “It doesn’t explode. Those transformers are not designed that way.” She said transformer fires are contained and the substation is designed to fire protection standards

Clarkdale resident Mike Pickens asked the APS representatives if there had been an environmental impact study done for the project. Weed said there were no state requirements for a study because of the substation location.

Steve Cheifetz, who owns a home on Old Jerome Highway -- one of the closest homes to the proposed substation location -- argued that the substation does not comply with the town’s Neighborhood Commercial general plan for the property.

Marlene Whitaker, who lives three houses from the proposed substation on Old Jerome Highway, said the gas line that runs in the area makes the substation unsafe.

Also, “it lowers our property value,” she said. “That’s the corridor going up and down from Jerome to Clarkdale. And that’s what tourists are going to see?”

One resident asked what APS would do if the Planning Commission voted down the request.  Lee said finding another location in Clarkdale would be a challenge as the substation location was chosen because of its proximity to 16kV lines.

She said it would considerably delay the company’s ability to build a substation in Clarkdale, an area where there will be more and more of a need for electricity. Lee said the company needs the substation for current and future energy use in homes and businesses and estimated that another substation may not be needed in area for another 30 years if this one is built.