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Mills River council formally opposes power line

MILLS RIVER — A crowd of citizens filled Mills River Town Hall Friday morning to voice their concerns about the proposed Duke Power transmission line from Campobello, S.C., to Duke Energy's Lake Julian plant in Arden.

Mayor Larry Freeman announced at the beginning of the meeting that Duke had just decided to move up their timeline and would  announce its chosen route for the line in October instead of January.
Freeman also invited the public to share their ideas and concerns at the town council’s next regular meeting, on Aug. 27. Duke had set a deadline of Friday, Aug. 14, to accept public input but in light of widespread opposition extended that to Aug. 31. Mills River will set aside an hour at 6 p.m. on the Aug. 27 to hear more public input.

“We won’t just pass it along to Duke Energy, we’ll also pass it along to the North Carolina Utilities Commission, because once Duke finishes with their part of it, it will be in the hands of that committee, and that’s seven members appointed by the governor and the General Assembly, so it will be in their hands very soon,” Freeman said.
Additionally, Duke Power has agreed to meet separately with the leaders of various homeowners associations in Mills River, although several people voiced concerns about this plan. “We will not be divided,” said Baird Blake, incoming president of Cummings Cove Homeowners Association. He explained that he was in contact not only with people in Mills River but also with Kenmure, Kanuga, and other communities. “We have the whole western side covered, and we are gonna stay united as a group,”
The spirit of the room reflected this united attitude, with enthusiastic applause for each speaker. Because there were so many people who wished to speak, several citizens passed on their turns, satisfied that their fellow community members had articulated their views adequately.
Greg Van Voorhis, the president of Mill Ridge Homeowners Association and member of a newly formed coalition of HOAs fighting the western route, explained the progress of the effort, which involves High Vista, Mills Point, Willow Creek Farms, Cummings Cove and Mill Ridge.

“This Group has been meeting and prepared a position paper. We collectively represent approximately a thousand homeowners in the Mills River area, and these are homeowners that will be negatively impacted if routes 12 and 10B are chosen,” he said.
While everyone in attendance opposed segments 12 and 10B, a large contingent expressed opposition to the project as a whole. Many question whetehr it's needed. Jim Sexton suggested that Duke’s use of terms like “rotating blackouts” is “just scare tactics.”
He explained that if the line is not constructed in Fletcher, for example, it will be constructed in Mills River instead, which could potentially pit the communities against each other when they should be uniting. “I think both towns can take a stand and say, ‘No transmission line.’”
Common arguments against the transmission line centered on property values and general beauty. Mills River citizens also have a particular interest in protecting agricultural interests and tourism.
Jeff Chandler spoke on behalf of NC State University’s Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center. “Agricultural research is how we’re gonna meet the demands of the world’s population in 2050,” he said. “We cannot deplete our capacity to do agricultural research and meet that need.”
Selena Einwechter, who owns the Tiffany Hill bed and breakfast in Mills River and serves on the Henderson County Tourism Development Authority, said the 140-foot towers would ruin views that draw tourists to the Blue Ridge Mountains.

“The number one reason why people come here is for our mountains,” she said. “These lines will destroy the beauty of the mountains that brought a lot of us here.”
At the end of the meeting, Mayor Freeman announced a resolution against the transmission line, which Town Manager Jeff Wells read to the crowd in its entirety. After some discussion about the wording, the council unanimously adopted the statement opposing the line.