Sparks flew at a charged meeting Wednesday after an electrical company was granted a permit to put up larger power lines along U-92 and 6000 West.
About 100 residents again packed City Hall to protest a request by Utah Power & Light for a conditional-use permit to upgrade power lines in the maturing, once-rural city, which is expected to grow to 25,000 in less than 10 years.Frustrated residents - who believe city leaders are catering to big business at the expense of pristine neighborhoods - moaned, groaned, shouted and cajoled members of the Planning Commission who approved the permit.
"How do we get this guy off the board?" grumbled one resident after Chairman Art Chidester defended his position to vote in favor of granting the request.
Larry Ellertson, general business manager of UP&L, said the high-voltage line will boost power along a 30-mile strip. Growth in Highland and neighboring cities will be serviced by the upgrade, which also will act as a backup line during power outages.
"The main reason for the upgrade was to increase the capacity," he said.
UP&L has been in discussions with the city about the permit for several months. But some residents who own property within 300 feet of the proposed locations of the bigger power poles say they were never notified of the public meetings.
The Board of Adjustments ruled the issue needed to be revisited by the Planning Commission to allow residents the opportunity to speak out and satisfy the notification law.
"Power lines are not the best of neighbors," said Bruce Baird, an attorney who has been retained by a residents group called the Prudent Power Coalition. "Bigger power lines are even worse neighbors."
Baird argued larger utility poles will decrease the value of homes in Highland neighborhoods. In addition, the coalition believes the current power lines have enough capacity to service the area for several years.
"People are afraid of a health impact," said Councilwoman Teri Jerman, a realtor who opposed the request. "I'm not saying there is a health issue, but it is enough to affect value (of houses). It absolutely affects the property."
Neither Steve Draper or Neil Hadlock was convinced the extra lines were the best alternative. However, they were outvoted by other commission members who believed the additional power will be best for Highland in the future.
"My belief is the advantage to the city outweighs the impact," said Brian Brunson.
Chris Howden, a founder of the Prudent Power Coalition, said opposition will be mounted at an upcoming county planning meeting for UP&L's request to build in the county. The power company also must get a height variance for the proposed poles.
"We still have an opportunity to derail the process," he said.