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FRISCO (CBS11) – After years of fighting over power lines, it looks like a group of homeowners may get their way and have the lines buried rather than hanging overhead. However the battle has one more round to go.
When homeowners along Frisco’s Main Street first heard the idea to build huge power lines that would create an eyesore for them to see every day, they set out to stop it. Now almost three years later, it will all come down to what three Public Utilities Commissioners decide.
After months of negotiations, Frisco announced it had come to an agreement with Brazos Electric to bury power lines on Main Street from just east of Legacy Drive to FM 423. The news came as a huge relief to members of a homeowners coalition fighting for this outcome.
“It’s amazing. It’s just amazing that Brazos, the City of Frisco, everybody signed off on it. It’s an answer to a prayer for us as homeowners,” said Meredith Held with the Bury The Lines coalition.
Held says it’s not just an aesthetic issue, the prospect of building power lines above ground could have a huge economic impact.
“My house could lose five to 20%. Well five to 20% of the 255 homes along here is a significant reduction in a tax base for the city of Frisco,” Held said.
City officials say above ground lines on Main Street could also prevent projects to widen the road and install a new water line. That’s why they proposed that Brazos bury the lines at the same time as Frisco’s construction.
“The simultaneous nature of the construction is how we’re able to save $10 million from the original cost estimate of the underground route,” Frisco’s Ben Brezina said.
Brezina is the Assistant to the City Manager. He says the city’s $12.4 million contribution to the underground power lines will be covered by an increase in the utility franchise fee paid to the city. But the plan still has to be approved by the Public Utilities Commission, and Held says she’s hoping to bring hundreds of homeowners to Austin as a sign of support.
“We want them to look at us and know that their decision is going to impact our housing values, our property values, and if they don’t agree with us, I want them to look each one of us in the eye and say, sorry,” Held said.
Not everyone agrees with the plan. The Town of Little Elm will have officials at that March 3 PUC meeting opposing the agreement because they want to move a proposed substation. Frisco officials say they don’t anticipate that will hurt their chances.
A spokesperson for the PUC says the commissioners could vote to accept, reject, or modify the agreement.
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