WEST JORDAN The city has approved a settlement with Utah Power that will allow a controversial power substation to be built where neighbors don't want it.
The substation is planned for the corner of 7000 South and 3200 West, but nearby residents have long protested the location. It's too near two elementary schools, a park, a church and the planned site of a private religious school, they have argued.
City officials have fought on the residents' side as the proposed substation has gone before the City Council several times in the past three years. The city has denied a permit for the site, a denial that has been upheld in state court. But Utah Power, saying the substation is needed to fuel a rapidly growing city, appealed that court decision.
Utah Power also invoked a 1997 state statute that created the Electrical Facility Review Board, asking the board's take on the issue. The board was charged with resolving disputes between local governments and public utilities regarding the location and construction of electrical facilities. But this was the first time the board had been convened.
The board sided with Utah Power in December. The city then appealed the board's decision.
On Tuesday, however, the council voted 6-1 to agree to a settlement with the utility. It will allow the substation to be built but calls for "optimum enhancement" to the site plan, West Jordan community development director Tom Burdett said.
The agreement requires Utah Power to build the station on a site landscaped to standards beyond the utility's normal legal obligation. It requires 8-foot-tall trees atop 6-foot berms, a wall to be the color of the city's choosing, and other considerations to keep the visual and safety impacts as low as possible.
However, Utah Power's concessions are not enough for many residents, who say they will do little to minimize the effect of the 90-foot substation towers and the above-ground power lines they worry cause health risks, safety dangers and visual blight.
"You've been bulldozed by the power company," resident Melinda Peterson tearfully told the council.
Councilman Mike Kellerymeyer, the only council member to vote against the settlement, suggested maintaining the fight through the state Supreme Court if necessary.
"As long as there's a little bit of hope, we should fight this and we should take it all the way," he said. "Until it has gone before the Supreme Court, I don't think we can look our citizens in the eye and say we've done our best."
But others worried that, if the city were to lose its appeal, the substation would be built without any of the enhancements required in the settlement. Though many on the council and on the city's staff said they felt their hands had been tied and they wanted to see the law creating the Electrical Facility Review Board overturned, city attorney Roger Cutler said he doubts this is the case to achieve that end.Cutler said even if the city were to win in the Supreme Court, the effect is hard to predict. The Legislature could rewrite its laws on public utilities to be more city-friendly, he said, or legislators could use the case as an example of cities' reactionary tendencies, placing utility siting powers in the hands of state regulators.