Carmel neighbors fight powerline proposal

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CARMEL, Ind.- A battle is brewing in Carmel, after some residents are unhappy with plans by Duke Energy to tear up green space in order to build a power substation. It also seems the mayor of Carmel isn’t happy with those plans either.

“We are frustrated right now,” said Brett Henk, president of the Autumn Lakes neighborhood association.

He said homeowners worry about losing trees, a drop in home values, and possible health-related problems like cancer from the power lines that might hang just feet from many homes.

“I think they’re really concerned about having these high power distribution poles within the neighborhood itself,” said Henk.

According to plans, Duke will build a power substation on a nearly-empty lot off Rohrer Road. From it would stem three power routes: one running south along Rohrer road, another running parallel to the Monon Trail, and a third just east of that one.

Duke Energy notified residents of the plan in late August, and then hosted an informational open house on September 12.

“It seemed like when we went to the open house that this was a done deal,” said Henk, “and it was more of a PR requirement for Duke to complete.”

Homeowners met a second time with Duke officials and are now pleading their case to the city.

In an email Henk got this week from Mayor Jim Brainard, the Mayor said in part, “I will help.  We have notified Duke we passed an ordinance requiring all new lines to be buried.  I suspect they will sue us but it should delay it at the very least.”

On its website, Duke said the project is necessary because of increasing demand across Clay Township. According to Duke’s timeline, the project would start this November and wrap up in the summer of 2019.

We did reach out to Mayor Brainard’s office for a direct comment or interview, but we didn’t hear back from them.

Duke Energy spokeswoman Angeline Protogere later responded to our request for comment with this statement:

"We understand that power lines and substations are often unpopular in residential areas. That’s why we gather public input first for projects that are important to maintaining reliable electric service. This area is growing, with new homes and expanding businesses, and we need to improve and upgrade our electric system to keep up with that growth.”

She also had this to say in response to Mayor Brainard’s speculation that the city of Carmel would end up being sued by Duke Energy:

"The ordinance passed by the city of Carmel is based on a statute that was intended to apply to permitting for wireless telecommunications facilities and not energy utilities. 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.”

When asked whether Duke expected there to be a lawsuit, Protogere said she was unable to speculate on that.

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