New Duke Energy substation worries homeowners in Carmel neighborhood

CARMEL, Ind. – Charlene Shropshire built the first home in Carmel's Autumn Lake neighborhood 18 years ago. Now, she's learned that a new Duke Energy substation is set to be built right in her backyard.

"Well, we’re concerned, we’re very concerned because we don’t know how it’s going to affect us and our properties,” Shropshire said.

Last year, Duke Energy announced plans to build a substation in a different spot down the road. After neighbors and the city complained, Duke found a new location on Rohrer road near US-31, that won’t require power lines to run through the neighborhood.

“We were concerned about the power lines on Rohrer Road, so as a compromise Duke decided to buy two houses just south of here," said neighborhood resident Michael Sullivan. "It's a couple acres and it seems reasonable.”

Neighbors like Sullivan are glad the company listened and changed their plan, eliminating the power lines, but he’s still worried about what the substation will do to the neighborhood.

"I think it will have a big impact because as realtors, everyone looks at the sale of other homes in the neighborhood," Sullivan said. "Well, if those homes get depreciated by 20-30 percent, even though we're not directly impacted, does my home value drop by 10 or 15 percent?”

Last fall, the City of Carmel passed an ordinance that, among other things, required Duke to get approval from the city’s Board of Public Works. However, that didn't happen.

In a statement, Duke said:

"Electric service is considered a necessity and zoning ordinances can vary from one city to the next and can interfere with the ability to provide electric service. That’s why under Indiana law it’s the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission that regulates utilities, not local ordinances. While we did not go through the formal Board of Public Works process, we have kept them informed about the alternative location."

In a letter sent to neighbors in August, Duke Energy lined out its plans to start construction for the project in October 2018, with clearing of the land starting in September.

The City of Carmel said in a statement:

"We are working with Duke, but without changes to their plans, the city is being denied a chance to continue to redevelop a strong central urban core, which is key to our efforts to attract economic development.

Duke is burying lines and switch boxes throughout much of our redeveloping City Center, Midtown and Arts & Design District. We would like to see that trend continue."

Meanwhile, as Shropshire sifts through the paperwork she’s collected on the project, she's enjoying the last few days of quiet in her backyard before construction begins. She says Duke has worked very well with the neighbors and has listened to their concerns, but in the end knows the project will move forward.

"We have no choice," Shropshire said "We would not like to have a substation so close to us, but we have no choice, they have to build a substation, they need it.”

Duke says they need the new substation to bring reliable service to the growing area. They plan to have the substation up and running by spring of 2019.