HOENIX — A pair of lengthy hearings at two recent Board of Supervisors meetings have culminated with the board approving a Salt River Project petition related to moving overhead power lines underground.
By a unanimous vote, the supervisors agreed at Wednesday’s regular meeting to allow the formation of a district to form to collect fees for burial of power lines.
Dave Sinovic, a resident of the 6400 block of Exeter Boulevard, told the board June 8 that SRP informed him it would have to take down a block wall and mature landscaping on his property, dig up ground, bury a line, and charge him about $37,000.
Sinovic won’t benefit from the underground operation. He receives power from lines that run in from the south.
Assistant County Manager Jen Pokorski outlined the process where residents in a neighborhood, using a more than 50-year-old state law process rarely invoked in the county, can form a district to raise funds for burial of overhead utility lines.
The board’s hearing was to determine if the petitioners, led by resident Josh Simon, had met all requirements of the legal process.
Sinovic appears to be one of the few holdouts in the Exeter Boulevard neighborhood. He asked supervisors to determine what can be done without costing Sinovic $37,000. The neighborhood, which only includes 15 property owners, cannot have more than 40% opposed to the district, and there are 12 signers of the petition.
The item was tabled after a June 8 hearing to allow all parties to talk further, but that produced no clear solution.
District 2 Supervisor Thomas Galvin, after hearing from several speakers Wednesday in favor of the district formation, along with Sinovic and several officials, made the motion to approve the district formation. He said he doesn’t like the statute — especially because it doesn’t call for 100% property owner approval — but it appears the applicants followed the process and met all requirements.
“It’s apparent that all of the requirements of forming the service area have been met,” Galvin said. “Do I like the statute? No, I do not. Do I wish there would be changes to the statute? Yes. Can I change them today? No.”
Galvin and Supervisor Clint Hickman both pointed out the state law reads a local board “shall” allow the formation of the district, if all petition requirements are met.
Attorney Jason Morris, representing Simon, said he’s never encountered a case like this. However, with property values along Exeter Boulevard zooming from $3 million to $8 million, he said, owners have a unique opportunity to improve and permanently change the visual and practical utility aspects of their properties.
“This is not just about aesthetics, but also a public safety issue,” Morris said. “These poles come down. All new development requires underground lines. Mr. Sinovic will benefit from making this improvement to Exeter, no matter how he gets power onto his property.”
Sinovic said Simon approached him with an offer to pay Sinovic’s share of the burying/digging costs, in a contract that would include Simon’s first right of refusal if Sinovic decides to sell his home. Sinovic said he plans to sell his home to his son, below market value; Morris said a first right of refusal wouldn’t apply if there were estate planning involved.
After a 25-minute discussion, Galvin made his motion. He added he wanted to see SRP staff keep all “impacted residents” informed about any and all upcoming activities related to the burial project.
Several residents who spoke said they favor the burial; one mentioned lightning strikes and the need to eliminate power poles as targets.
A pair of residents who live near the section of Exeter spoke against the district’s formation. One said if above-ground lines in the area must be brought underground, an additional pole must be placed in each of their front yards to help “end” the overhead section of utility lines.
“We would have a catastrophic impact to our property and family by this,” said Adam Livingston, a resident of Exeter Boulevard, just west of the petition area. “We will not tolerate any modification of our property. This has been an absolute nightmare.”
Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the board took the Shappell Family Project zone change request off its consent agenda.
After hearing opposition from the town of Gilbert’s development services director on the grounds of commercial zoning not fitting into the town’s general plan and concern about billboard installation on a county island, the board approved a rural-to-commercial zone change unanimously.
Supervisor Jack Sellers, before making the motion for approval, said there are other commercial and industrial zones in the area.
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