Dominion to host meeting about proposed Varina substation

MAY 16, 7:30 P.M. – A proposed Dominion Virginia Power substation in Varina will be the topic of a community meeting at Varina High School Tuesday night at 6 p.m.

The substation, proposed on a 10-acre parcel at 7000 Osborne Turnpike, is needed to improve service reliability in the Varina area, according to Dominion officials. Within the area that would be served by the new substation, there have been 13 power outages during the past two years – including six that lasted one hour or longer, Dominion records show. Those figures exceed typical outages experienced by most Dominion customers elsewhere, according to the company.

But some residents are concerned that the placement of the substation within a corridor known for its sweeping views of farmland, woods and the James River could present an unwelcome industrial appearance. Following a community meeting last summer, during which opponents expressed those views, Dominion officials searched for another site within the region that might be a better fit. But that search yielded no viable results, so the Osborne site remains the company's preferred option.

Dominion officials are proposing to locate the substation on a 1.5-acre fenced tract of the larger parcel, set back from the road and buffered largely by existing trees and a natural berm, Dominion spokeswoman Le-Ha Anderson said. The substation would serve an estimated 5,600 Dominion customers in the Varina area, as well as portions of Richmond near Rocketts Landing.

Those customers currently get their power from one of four existing substations, three of which are in the area and one that is just outside it, Dominion spokesman Dan Genest said. With several large planned communities already approved in Varina – Tree Hill and Wilton on the James, totaling more than nearly 6,000 residential units and other commercial and retail uses – an additional power source soon will be needed, according to the company.

During full operation, the substation would be no louder than a residential heat pump, according to information posted on Dominion's website.

But some opponents of the plan remain skeptical that the facility will not visually detract from the surrounding area and worry that its construction will harm efforts to brand the corridor as a tourist path.

The Route 5 Corridor Coalition and Residents of Osborne Turnpike (ROOT) are concerned that the county's designation of the Osborne Turnpike corridor as an "Existing Character Protection Area" in its 2026 Comprehensive Plan would be undermined by the facility. They also worry that the regional marketing effort launched by the coalition – in partnership with Henrico County and the Commonwealth of Virginia – to promote the historic corridor would suffer.

"The idea of a brand new industrial construction project visible from the road within this uniquely scenic and historic corridor is a shock," Route 5 Corridor Coalition Co-Chair Nicole Anderson Ellis told the Citizen. But, she said, the organization would accept the facility anyway if Dominion would purchase adjacent land and place conservation easements on it, thereby restricting future development and protect nearby property values.

Dominion must win a conditional use permit from the Board of Supervisors in order to build the facility on the site. The case first will be heard by the county's Planning Commission June 9, before supervisors consider it (likely July 12). The county's Board of Zoning Appeals also must approve permits to allow the substation's construction.

Board of Supervisors Chairman and Varina District member Tyrone Nelson told the Citizen he hasn't yet decided how he will vote on the matter.

"I'm hearing from both sides," he said. "I'm starting to hear from a contingency of people. . . saying they support it, and there are groups that are against it. There's some legitimate opposition, and the points make sense. We're trying to get this thing as far back from the road as possible. We don't want it seen."

Nelson, whose own home sits across Osborne Turnpike from the proposed Dominion site, brushed off concerns that allowing Dominion to locate the substation on the site might somehow lead to future industrial-type development along the corridor.

"I'm not going to let Osborne Turnpike turn into an industrial park," he said.

He, too, would like to see Dominion locate the substation closer to the river – and farther from Osborne Turnpike, so that it could be completely out of sight. But, he said, Dominion's attempts to purchase property that might have allowed that were unsuccessful.

"You cant make property owners sell their property," he said.

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The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen will hold a 2017-18 Season Reveal Party from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Enjoy a first look at the upcoming performance season and meet-and-greet with select artists and performers. Light snacks will be served and attendees will have a chance to buy tickets – before subscriptions officially go on sale to the public June 12. Admission is free. For details, call 261-ARTS or visit http://www.artsglenallen.com. Full text

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