AltaLink would not have considered burying a power line in the Riverlands area unless the City of Red Deer had agreed to pay for it, an Alberta Utilities Commission heard on Wednesday.
The city has offered to fork over an estimated $8.2 million to cover the cost of burying 700 metres of power line in the Riverlands area, which is envisioned as a riverfront residential and urban gathering district, with a public market, restaurants, hotel and other draws.
However, Dr. Gregg Meikle, who owns a commercial building in the neighbouring Railyards district northwest of Real Canadian Superstore, believes AltaLink should also be willing to bury the line in that area.
Meikle said the city has some “truly impressive” long-term plans for the area, but they are contingent on burying power lines.
“Otherwise, development is essentially stalled. We were just looking to get AltaLink to reconsider their decision and bury the line and open it up to potential redevelopment in a vision in keeping with the Greater Downtown Action Plan,” said Meikle, who was attending the second day of Alberta Utilities Commission’s Red Deer hearing into a $350-million project to upgrade transmission in the Central Alberta region.
Meikle owns a commercial property at 49th Street and 54th Ave in the Railyards and has a vested interest in seeing the existing overhead power line removed when it is replaced.
An overhead line will restrict what he can build on his property and take full advantage of what should be a prime location in one of the city’s visionary developments.
The city sees the Railyards as a future high-density residential district, with a blend of commercial, public service and retail spaces.
His lawyer, Gavin Fitch, closely questioned AltaLink’s panel on how decisions are made around line burying.
AltaLink manager of regional projects Keith Turriff said the company doesn’t usually consider burying lines because it costs up to 10 times as much and those costs must be passed on to all power users.
While costs may be higher now, burying the lines in Riverlands and the Railyards would make a big difference to Red Deer’s future development, Meikle argues.
“I think it’s shortsighted. Obviously, both areas have truly great potential. They are right by the river, they are close to the walking trails.
“It just seems shortsighted to leave those lines up and stall development for 25, 50 years.
“I think AltaLink should take more than cost into consideration when they make their decision.”
In the afternoon, Michael Niven, a lawyer representing Innisfail-area property owners questioned AltaLink representatives about its route choices there.
A number of residents have expressed worries about the effect the power line and substation projects would have on property values, health and the environment.
AltaLink is applying to the AUC for approval to build substations near Ponoka, Innisfail and Didsbury, as well as about 35 km of lines in those areas.
As well, there’s a 71-km line overhaul proposed from Benalto, to the edge of Red Deer’s West Park neighbourhood, to Nova Chemicals at Joffre.
The company says the work is necessary to upgrade transmission capacity in the fast-growing Central Alberta corridor.