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City asks Duke to partner on greenway in corridor

Existing 100-kilovolt line crosses Four Seasons Boulevard and North Main Street and roughly follows Mud Creek to the west toward Grimesdale.. Existing 100-kilovolt line crosses Four Seasons Boulevard and North Main Street and roughly follows Mud Creek to the west toward Grimesdale..

The city of Hendersonville has become the first town in Henderson County to tell Duke Energy that it could bring the controversial transmission line through the city, adding requests that the utility work to minimize harm, use single-pole structures and partner with the city to build a greenway in the power line easement.

“We would request that any easement agreement obtained by Duke Energy for this project include a provision that allows the construction of a greenway within the transmission line right of way,” City Manager John Connet wrote to Duke Energy district manager Craig DeBrew on Tuesday. “In addition, we would request that Duke Energy serve as an active partner in the construction of a greenway segment within the city of Hendersonville.”
The City Council reached a consensus on the feedback to Duke Energy after separate meetings with DeBrew on Aug. 18, Connet said Sunday.
“We did individual meetings. He kind of went through the project,” he said. Connet took notes on council members’ questions and sent them a draft of the letter for their review and comment. “They all reviewed it and they were fine with it,” he added.
The letter was sent over Connet’s signature, not over the signatures of the mayor and council members.

"We realize (following existing right of way) will bring the project through the City of Hendersonville but our goal is to protect our scenic vistas and ridgelines," the city said.

Whether the city succeeds in its quid pro quo is an open question. Allowing a greenway under its power lines is not something Duke has done in the past, corporate spokesman Tom Williams told the Hendersonville Lightning last month.
“Not that I’m aware of,” Williams said when asked whether any Duke transmission line corridor doubles as a greenway. “I’ve never seen that before. We seek to buy the easement so often other people still own the property…. We don’t want to get involved in that because it’s private property.”
Connet said on Sunday that he and the council were aware of Duke’s position on greenways and it record of not participating in them but that the council wanted to pursue the request anyway.
“We felt like if it’s going to come this way let’s turn lemons into lemonade” and get something positive out of it, he said.
Connet and Councilman Jeff Miller said the options for the greenway include extending the newest segment west along Mud Creek, and extending the greenway east to Upward Road. The western end of the Oklawaha Greenway will reach Berkeley Park by next summer. If it continued west, the greenway could ultimately connect Hendersonville and Asheville, Connet said.
The Polk County Board of Commissioners and the towns of Saluda, Laurel Park, Fletcher and Mills River have all adopted resolutions opposing the 230-kilovolt transmission line. Miller depicted the city’s approach as more constructive.

“I just got tired of everybody else saying ‘not in my backyard’ and we wanted to say if it had to be done let’s parallel, use the same right of way and add to it,” he said. “My stand on it, is if this thing has to be done let’s keep it off the ridgelines. We’ll ask them to work with us in the city to keep the damage down to a minimum and participate with us in construction of the greenway.”
Using the  existing corridor would mean widening the right of way by 50 feet and erecting new support structures alongside existing 100-foot towers, which carry 100-kV lines, Connet said.

A middle route through Hendersonville would be welcome news to opponents in the Flat Rock, Big Willow and Etowah area who oppose the western option and to landowners in Dana, Edneyville, Fruitland, Hoopers Creek and Fletcher who are fighting the apple country route.