The gloves are off in northern suburb Frisco as homeowners fight against a power line proposed by Brazos Electric Power Cooperative Inc. and CoServ Electric.
But in an unprecedented twist, Frisco Realtors are fighting side-by-side with homeowners for their home values and property rights.
At the heart of the issue is a suggested above-ground, 138,000-volt, double-circuit power line along either Stonebrook Parkway or Main Street in Frisco, built by Brazos on behalf of CoServ. The power line will start at an existing transmission line west of the Dallas North Tollway, and run between 2.7 and 4.1 miles, depending on the approved route, to a new substation to be built on King Road, west of Farm-to-Market Road 423. The new power line would serve growth in Frisco, Little Elm and The Colony, one of the fastest growing areas in the nation.
This prospect has the West Frisco Homeowners Coalition (WFHOC) and Collin County Association of Realtors (CCAR) working together oppose the 12-story power line, proposing instead that Brazos/CoServ build the line underground. They say the above-ground high-voltage transmission line, which will run through densely populated neighborhoods, will adversely affect the rights of homeowners.
“This is not simply about lowering property values—we see this as a huge home ownership, private property rights infringement,” said Adam Majorie, Government Affairs Director for the CCAR. “We think [the above-ground lines] will have a detrimental impact on homeowners themselves, because it affects on the whole neighborhood, and it impacts the homeowners’ nest eggs.”
Together, the WFHOC/CCAR hosted a town hall meeting Nov. 13 at Wakeland High School in Frisco, where hundreds of people turned out, according to reporting done by WFFA. They discussed next steps, like challenging the future Brazos/CoServ application with the Public Utility Commission (PUC) for a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity, which would allow them to build on the land.
In September 2014, WFHOC and CCAR partnered to create burythelines.org, a grassroots community effort to get the power line buried, instead of above ground. Majorie said they’re seeing progress.
“The original 2013 proposal did not have any underground options. The application we are hoping to see sent to the PUC [by Brazos/CoServ] in December or January should have two more options, both underground,” he said, noting they will be along the same routes.
Officials estimate that the difference in price is staggering, though: roughly $3.5 million for an overhead line versus $31.5 million for an underground line, according to the Dallas Morning News. That’s about ten times as expensive. The city of Frisco, which opposes an above-ground line, said that overhead cost does not include purchasing the right-of-way. Taxpayers in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas grid — most of the state — will shoulder the cost of either option.
Once Brazos/CoServ files its application with the PUC, Majorie said burythelines.org plans to challenge, and all parties will likely end up before an administrative law judge to arbitrate.
WFHOC chairman Kendall Meade helped orchestrate a flood of comments from the public to the PUC last year, with more than 3,000 people sending in their opinions. Once the Brazos/CoServ application is filed, they plan to petition members to do the same thing again, hoping to convince the PUC to vote for an underground option.
The burythelines.org website states that 19,700 residents would be directly impacted by the power lines at current population levels, with that number growing to 34,700 residents at build out.
“This fight is truly about homeownership and private property rights,” said Meredith Held, past president of CCAR and member of the WFHOC. “We need to make sure that the growth of our region does not negatively affect our neighborhoods. We need to ensure that property values remain untouched. Burying the lines is the best compromise.”
Above-ground power lines are unattractive, and we’ve all seen what happens to them when ice storms hit. Oh wait, it gets so dark we CANNOT see when the power is out for days. Why can’t power lines be buried in Texas? If taxpayers will be paying the bill, why not ask us what we think?
What do you think?