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City leaders keeping their options open

Profile image for By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe
By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe

Homes of 13 families threatened by proposed location of new electrical substation near UNT

City leaders are exploring more options for a new electrical substation near the University of North Texas, according to Denton council member Kathleen Wazny.

The council took up the matter in closed session this week.

“I know people are hungry for information,” Wazny said. “There are still several options on the table.”

Although there is some open land in the neighborhood, the project, as originally announced, threatens the homes of 13 families.

Denton Municipal Electric officials told the Hillside Addition neighborhood early this year they had no viable options. The houses between Peak, Collins, Bernard and Fannin streets would have to come down to make way for the substation.

A substation takes electricity from the large transmission lines and distributes it to users. DME typically needs between 2 and 4 acres to build one.

The closer a substation is to the transmission line, the less expensive it is to build.

UNT owns most of the land closest to the transmission line in that area. Most of it serves as parking lots for students, faculty and staff. Although UNT officials have known for several years its growing demand for electricity required a new substation, the university has been reluctant to release any land for it.

Hillside homeowners have said they are concerned about their neighborhood’s decline. Many of the neighborhood’s small, sturdy homes were built in the 1940s and ’50s. A number of houses have already been demolished to make way for apartment complexes and the UNT main campus itself as it expands south and east.

“I’m personally committed to preserving that neighborhood,” Wazny said, adding she couldn’t discuss details of any alternate land deals yet.

Homeowners Richard and Betty Cooper said in an email they were concerned there wasn’t a public discussion of the other options, similar to what has been presented to property owners in other neighborhoods. DME is in the middle of a $350 million capital improvement program across the city.

Many new and upgraded transmission lines and substations have been, or soon will be, built.

The city’s interim planning director, Aimee Bissett, recommended this week that city leaders hire outside help to write small-area plans and other long-range plans, such as placement of future electrical substations.

Only the Denia neighborhood — which also faces pressure from UNT’s expansion to the south and west — has been able to complete a small-area plan.

Another small-area plan was in the works for a neighborhood north of UNT, between Bonnie Brae and Ector streets, but that plan stalled in 2012 and remains incomplete.

Bissett told the council small-area plans can help preserve neighborhoods.

The Hillside Addition neighborhood is a prime candidate for such a plan, she said.

The City Council is in recess for the holiday and is not scheduled to meet until July 21.


PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.