TRAVERSE CITY — The city’s electric utility will spend up to $15,000 on a piece of property it hopes to never own — just in case public opposition foils its preferred location for an electrical substation.
Traverse City Light & Power has two possible sites for a needed electrical substation on LaFranier Road in Garfield Township. The utility’s board recently decided to apply for township zoning approval for the smaller site preferred by township officials that sits among residential neighborhoods. But it also voted to maintain two, six-month purchase options at $7,500 each on a 30-acre parcel farther south on LaFranier Road — should neighbors disagree with their elected officials.
”I’ve seen, you’ve seen, actions that were totally reversed once the public came out,” utility attorney Peter Doren told the board. “It’s awful hard to stand up to that public outcry.”
The cost to build on either site is roughly equal and the utility board initially planned to simultaneously pursue zoning approval for both locations. But attorney Carrie Zeits, representing the utility to gain zoning approval, called a simultaneous application “too confusing.” She said township officials preferred the smaller 1.3-acre parcel adjacent to an existing Cherryland Electric Cooperative substation near South Airport Road.
Township Supervisor Chuck Korn previously told the utility board the 30-acre site closer to Hammond Road is primed for commercial development and the township would rather not lose it from the tax rolls. The property currently is zoned agricultural.
Doug Luciani, executive director of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce, also told the board that area is targeted for future commercial development by the chamber’s economic development agency.
Locating next to Cherryland would allow the rural electric cooperative to connect to the city substation as a backup and use it to reroute power to its customers in case of an electrical failure on its system.
TCL&P previously purchased a one-year option on the 30-acre site for $25,000, and some utility board members opposed throwing more money at the property.
Board chairman Pat McGuire said the city utility doesn’t need 30 acres and should the Cherryland site fall through they likely can still buy the property or find another parcel.
”It’s not going to hurt us that much if (the Cherryland site) goes south,” McGuire said.
The utility’s zoning application may go before the township’s zoning board of appeals for a public hearing on June. 18.