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Planning Commission sends amendments to supervisors

The Westmoreland County Planning Commission completed five months of deliberations this Monday and voted to send a set of subdivision ordinance amendments to the Board of Supervisors for approval. The effort was initiated at the request of Northern Neck Electric Cooperative, Inc.

On June 17, NNEC Vice President Pat Henry dispatched a written request to the Westmoreland Land Use Office advising that additional ordinance language is needed to ensure “that developers provide for adequate electric utilities when developing a subdivision. “When this does not occur,” the Vice President in charge of engineering

then related, “it may mean that electric utilities cannot be provided due to easement issues within the subdivision itself or with adjacent property owners.

“If the developer does not provide for adequate electric utilities up front, then the costs associated with providing service to individual lots from the nearest existing electric distribution facilities will be the responsibility of the lot owner(s) requesting electric service from the Cooperative.”

Northern Neck Electric issued its request to every jurisdiction in its service area. The cooperative additionally provided a model ordinance and the power company’s public relations officer, Harry Smith, worked closely with the Westmoreland Land Use Office and Planning Commissioners during the long period of deliberations.

Smith related this Monday afternoon that Westmoreland County is the first service area jurisdiction to bring the requested set of subdivision ordinance amendments to public hearing. When the Commission voted to send its work to the Board of Supervisors with a recommendation that the new language be approved, Smith revealed that several of the other service area jurisdictions had delayed action until at least one member locality developed a series of amendments that accomplished the objectives brought forward by Pat Henry in the June 17 document.

“The ordinance will be the same in the other Northern Neck Electric counties,” Smith predicted during the Dec. 5 Westmoreland Planning Commission discussion.
Smith reiterated the intent stated throughout the deliberative process. In order to ensure that the developer is the responsible party, the cooperative needs the ability to review preliminary subdivision plats and deliver its input with respect to a subdivision’s power easements prior to a locality’s approval of the subdivision plat.
Language proposed for adoption in Westmoreland will require the developer to install the backbone electrical service at the time of subdivision, ensuring establishment of feasible service routes to every subdivision lot.

During previous discussions, Smith told the Westmoreland Planning commissioners there have been instances in which subdivisions were platted and no feasible electrical service routes were established. The consequence was the cooperative’s inability to provide its service at a cost the lot owner could afford.

“Northern Neck Electric cannot provide for compensation to the initial homeowner for costs the homeowner incurred to extend electrical service when that line extension is later used to serve additional customers,” Smith additionally explained. Existing practices have additionally caused what Smith described as “late-comers” to incur excessive costs in order to connect.

Shifting the responsibility of installing infrastructure for future service to the developer will eliminate the kinds of difficulties Smith described. Existing language merely required the developer to identify the location of easements for future electrical service.

In other Dec. 5 business, the Planning Commission approved Bay Act Exception applications that enable two sets of property owners to proceed with sets of erosion control improvements on the respective waterfront properties. A severely eroded property on the Rappahannock fronted by Resolution Road and a lot on the lower end of Coles Point’s Machodoc shore will both be stabilized with grading improvements and vegetative plantings. Return walls, bulkhead and installation of backfill material were additional components of the project at Coles Point.

Betsy Ficklin

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