Action on DTE Site Plan Postponed

Action on a site plan for a new DTE Buckler electrical substation at 984 Broadway near Canal Street was postponed by Ann Arbor planning commissioners at their May 15, 2012 meeting. City planning staff had recommended postponement to allow more time to review several outstanding issues. For example, staff has recommended that DTE seek a variance from the city’s zoning board of appeals for a 100-year detention requirement – the proposed site plan would require such a variance. The site is located within the Huron River’s 100-year floodplain.

The project also needs a variance to the 15-foot conflicting land use buffer requirements along the east side property line, adjacent to Riverside Park. DTE is requesting a variance that would allow 33 trees and 38 shrubs to be planted along the far western side of Riverside Park instead of on DTE property. The city’s park advisory commission recommended approval of that variance at its Feb. 28, 2012 meeting.

DTE is building the new Buckler substation in the utility company’s Ann Arbor service center to provide an increase in electrical power to the downtown area due to increased demand for electricity. A DTE engineer told commissioners that within a mile radius of the current Argo substation on Broadway, peak loads were 17% higher in 2001 2011 compared to 2009. He described the Buckler substation project as a $10 million investment in the city.

According to a staff memo, the project will include two 15.5-foot tall electrical transformers and related electrical equipment on raised concrete pads, and a new power delivery center (PDC) – a 630-square-foot, 12.5-foot tall steel structure. The project also will include a new six-foot tall perimeter chain link fence with one foot of barb wire and a concrete block retaining wall. The source of power will be transmitted through underground sub-transmission cables in an existing manhole and conduit system.

Because of floodplain issues, DTE has proposed to build raised transformer pads by bringing in 800 cubic yards of fill. To mitigate that impact to the floodplain, DTE plans to remove 1,155 cubic yards of earth on the MichCon site at 841 Broadway. [MichCon is a DTE subsidiary.] The proposal also calls for removing a building on the MichCon site, which will give the company an additional 55 cubic yards of ”floodplain mitigation credit.” The proposal for this MichCon portion of the project was presented in a separate agenda item, and unanimously approved by planning commissioners.

The Buckler substation project is expected to return to the planning commission at its next meeting on June 5.

This brief was filed from the second-floor council chambers of city hall at 301 E. Huron, where planning commission meetings are held. A more detailed report will follow: [link]