There’s a petition going around Fruitvale right now, and it’s sparking plenty of conversation.
The petition was started by residents dead set against the proposal for a new substation to be installed in their rural backyard, nearby a popular park.
Specifically, the substation site chosen as a best-fit by FortisBC is located just off Columbia Gardens Road, between Mazzocchi Park and Walnut Avenue.
If all goes ahead, construction will begin in 2024 with the substation up and running the following year. FortisBC has informed residents the majority of work will take place inside the substation, minimizing traffic disruption. Moreover, the company noted that an eight to 10-foot high concrete fence will be installed around the new utility, and sound walls around the transformers will aid in redirecting noise away from the residential neighbourhoods.
As word gets out of this plan, a growing number of Fruitvale residents are signing the petition which in nutshell says, “Save our Neighbourhood. No substation.”
As well, before anything can proceed, Fruitvale council has some critical work to do as the municipality owns a small slice of the lot involved, and the entire piece of land in-question must be rezoned to permit for the new usage. The lot is presently zoned for single and two-family residential use, so to green-light construction, it must be re-zoned to P3, or “utilities.”
“Fortis approached the village as they need to upgrade the local substation and need more room,” Fruitvale Mayor Steve Morissette told the Trail Times. “To be most cost effective for customers it should be located close to the existing 60kv line running down Columbia Gardens Road and close to the village customers.”
Morissette says the company looked at some alternate locations, but those didn’t meet their needs or proved to be not cost effective for ratepayers.
FortisBC held a public meeting in December to address questions and hear feedback on their proposal to use this particular property for the new substation. Then in January, Fruitvale council decided to tentatively sell the village’s land interest, which encompasses around 25 per cent of the lot.
Council voted in support of selling, if the village can reach an acceptable agreement on price and amenities to improve the area around the substation, Morissette added.
“Apparently the private owner has agreed to sell as well.”
He was quick to point out that this arrangement is not a done deal, as an acceptable agreement is yet to be reached and the land has yet to be rezoned.
“There will be a public hearing in March for the potential rezoning of the property where Fruitvale residents will again be afforded the opportunity to voice their thoughts on the proposal,” Morissette said. “If council deems it in the best interest of Fruitvale to rezone the property, then negotiation of a sale will take place.”
Fruitvale council is hosting a public hearing for both the zoning and Official Community Plan amendments on Tuesday, March 8, at 5 p.m. in the Fruitvale Memorial Hall.
The Trail Times also contacted FortisBC regarding this proposal, which the company says represents an estimated $10 million investment into the region’s electric system.
“To meet the growing energy needs of our electricity customers in Fruitvale, we need to build a new substation,” FortisBC spokesperson Nicole Brown replied. “We’ve reviewed a number of potential sites and identified a property on Columbia Gardens Road as the best alternative. Right now, we’re working with the Village of Fruitvale and a private land owner to secure the land.“
Brown says this new substation will replace the original Fruitvale substation that’s been in service since the 1960s — it’s reaching end of life and is no longer sufficient to meet the growing electricity needs within the municipality.
“We’re committed to working together with local residents as part of the process and took part in an information session late last year,” Brown said. “We appreciated the active involvement from the community and we considered all of the alternative sites that were brought forward.”
The other sites all posed significant challenges, so the company continues to look at purchasing the property on Columbia Gardens Road.
“FortisBC continues to work closely with the village to keep the public informed and address questions and comments,” Brown said.
Anyone who has questions or would like more information can email FortisBC at firstname.lastname@example.org.