Construction of Duke Energy substation on Rohrer Road set to begin next month despite Carmel’s attempts to stop it

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Duke Energy is moving ahead with plans to build a new substation along Rohrer Road despite the City of Carmel’s attempts to stop it.

On Aug. 17, Duke sent a letter to homeowners in the area announcing that the utility company had purchased nearly 5 acres of property along Rohrer Road south of Leafy Branch Trail that it plans to use for a new substation. Construction is set to begin in October so that it can go into service by late spring 2019, the letter states.

In November 2017, the Carmel City Council passed an ordinance outlining steps for Duke to take before building a new substation along Rohrer Road. It requires Duke to consult with the city’s Board of Public Works to discuss the location of the new substation and receive board approval before beginning construction. It also states that the project should place utilities underground to the fullest extent possible.

Carmel spokesman Dan McFeely said Duke has “not followed the ordinance for the construction” and that the city has not filed a lawsuit at this time. Soon after the ordinance passed last fall, Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said he anticipated it would be up for “a judge to decide” if Duke must follow the city’s ordinance.

Officials from Duke said that because ordinances vary from one city to the next, state law requires they follow standards set by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, not municipal codes.

“While we did not go through the formal board of public works process, we have kept them informed about the alternative location,” Duke spokesperson Angeline Protogere stated in an email. “We listened to the neighbors’ concerns and we are glad to be able to find an alternative site that resolves a number of issues and still enables us to upgrade our electric system to keep up with the area’s growth.”

Originally, Duke planned to build the substation on property it owns just north of the Autumn Lake neighborhood, but the company selected a new location after residents objected to that site.

“They asked us if there might be another option, so we scouted around and we were able to find another piece of property for sale and a willing seller,” said Lew Middleton, Duke Energy spokesperson. “We were able to purchase that and were able to situate the substation there in a way that still meets our operational requirements.”

The new substation will be built on a site previously home to two rental houses owned by Breakfast Club, LLC. City Councilor Jeff Worrell was a partner in Breakfast Club and recused himself from the discussion and vote on the ordinance in November because of the homes’ proximity to the site.

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