Saturday, December 9, 2023

Dominion Files Site Plan for Skiffes Creek Switching Station

A simulated view of the over-river power line from the Kingsmill area. (Photo courtesy Dominion)
A simulated view of the over-river power line from the Kingsmill area. (Photo Courtesy of Dominion)

Although the James City County Board of Supervisors has yet to approve rezoning for the proposed Skiffes Creek Switching Station, Dominion Virginia Power has submitted a site plan in hopes of expediting a project timeline that has already faced several delays.

The site plan, which includes layout and landscape plans for the switching station, was processed by the James City County planning division on Monday.

Leanne Pollock, a senior planner for James City County, said submitting the site plan while the rezoning is being considered benefits an applicant because the site plan review could be finished around the time a zoning decision is made.

However, because the supervisors have not approved the rezoning, Dominion submitted the site plan at its own risk, Pollock said. This means if the board denies the rezoning application, planners will not be able to approve the site plan and Dominion will lose the $12,782 it paid to file it.

“Until that rezoning is approved we would not be able to issue an approval of the site plan,” Pollock said.

Dominion needs three parcels of land rezoned to an industrial use in order to build the switching station.

Bonita Billingsley Harris, Dominion’s media and community relations manager, said Dominion understands the risk of filing the site plan at this time, but said if Dominion does not act now, customers face an even greater risk.

“Time is of the essence for us,” Harris said. “We’re already concerned about being in a window where our customers on the Peninsula may experience rolling blackouts and we want to do everything in our power to reduce that risk as much as possible.”

Dominion proposed building a new transmission line in 2011 and closing the coal-burning Yorktown Power Station, but the planned the closure was expedited due to federal environmental quality regulations, Harris said.

As a result, a proposed 500kV power line across the James River was set to be energized this year, but legal battles forced project delays and the closure of the Yorktown Power Station has since been pushed back to April 2016, she said.

The supervisors attempted to block construction on county land, arguing it would negatively impact historic and scenic assets, but the State Corporation Commission approved Dominion’s construction request in November 2013.

The Virginia Supreme Court upheld this judgement in April, but also ruled James City County has the right to grant or deny zoning requests.

In August, the James City County Planning Commission voted 4-2 to recommend the supervisors deny the rezoning request, despite a memo from county staff that recommended an approval. During the meeting, commissioners noted the difficulty of considering zoning for the switching station without also considering the effects of the entire power line.

Robin Bledsoe, planning commission chairwoman, said the commission did not make its decision based on the power line. Instead, it was determined the rezoning would not be in compliance with the surrounding area, which is zoned residential.

The earliest the supervisors could make a decision on the rezoning is during the regular meeting Oct. 13. If the board denies the application, Harris said Dominion could consider other locations for the switching station but they would not be as ideal as the proposed site.

Additionally, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needs to approve the route and construction of the transmission lines and towers before it can move forward with the project, Harris said.

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