North Texas

Controversy Over Proposed Site of New Electric Substation, Two Miles from Cowboys New Home

Hundreds of Frisco homeowners are gearing up for a fight against a proposed Oncor substation.

More than 700 homeowners have signed a petition against the proposed site across the street from Allen Elementary School, and the petition gets bigger by the hour.

Oncor says it needs to build a large new substation to keep up with the power demands for the booming North Texas town. The Star, the Dallas Cowboys new home, is nearing completion, and nearby hotels, restaurants, homes and retail development projects are wrapping up, too.

Neighbors say they appreciate the fact that more growth requires more electricity, but they say the spot they're eyeing doesn't make sense.

"I get it, this has to go somewhere to service all the growth in this area. With growth comes infrastructure needs, and it needs to be built somewhere. But why here? Why does it need to go right across from the kids? In any area that doesn't even benefit from it," said Jamie Heit, a mother of three who lives in the nearby community of Estates of Legacy.

She said she's furious that the power company hasn't reached out to her neighbors about the plan.

"Nobody knew anything about this. It was mentioned briefly at a Planning and Zoning meeting a few weeks ago, but Oncor nor the city let any of us know what they planned on doing," Heit said. "Our homeowner's association president wasn't even 100 percent informed."

Oncor wants a new, sprawling substation to service new development near the Cowboys new home.

Kris Spears, an Oncor spokesman, said a new substation isn't just for The Star, but for other Oncor customers throughout the city.

Heit said that's exactly the problem. Her community isn't served by Oncor, and so she argues Oncor should build elsewhere.

"The fact that this going to be in our backyard and it's not benefiting us, and we have to basically look at this ugly substation that services another community two miles away. And there's plenty of space there [closer to The Star]," she said.

Heit argues that the city wants to add the substation far away from the glitz and glamour of The Star, because it's unsightly.

"They're talking two football field lengths of 70-foot towers," she said. "And all of the homes [around here] are going to depreciate."

"I think it's highly reasonable to think that the substation would primarily go to serve the neighbors and communities around The Star, and they don't want it close because it's ugly and big," she added

John Lettelleir, Frisco's director of development services, said that is an unfair and "out of line" assessment, noting that the Planning and Zoning Commission hasn't even heard the case yet. Ultimately the development would have to be approved by the City Council.

Spears said Oncor representatives have already met with two homeowners associations and is busy planning additional meetings.

Geoff Bailey, another Oncor spokesman, said in a statement:

"We care about these concerns and are committed to having an open dialogue about this proposed substation. The addition of this substation is critical to supporting the continued economic development and vitality of Frisco."

Heit's six-year-old son goes to Allen Elementary, and she said she wouldn't feel safe having her kids go to school so close to a substation.

"There is no way I would keep my son in that school. Sitting across from a massive substation for eight hours, every day. It's not safe," she said. "I am very upset. I would think about putting my house on the market and moving."

The next Planning and Zoning meeting is Tuesday night. The substation development will be on the agenda, but city leaders say a vote won't happen.

"In the meantime, staff will request Oncor meet with area residents and city staff to discuss the company's request for a specific use permit for an electrical substation. Such a meeting will give everyone interested a chance to ask questions and hear concerns," Lettelleir said.

Nevertheless, dozens of homeowners plan on attending the Tuesday night meeting and making their voices heard.

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