Ann Arbor OKs Riverside Easement for DTE

An easement between the city of Ann Arbor and DTE Energy – for land in Riverside Park where utility poles are located – has been approved by the Ann Arbor city council.

The easement was recommended for approval by the Ann Arbor park advisory commission at its March 19, 2013 meeting. [.pdf of easement agreement] The council’s action came at its April 15, 2013 meeting.

DTE Energy Buckler substation site plan

DTE Energy Buckler substation site plan. (Links to larger image)

The easement agreement is needed so that DTE can remove old utility poles and install new poles and overhead lines – generally in the same location as existing poles and lines at Riverside Park. The easement allows DTE to provide maintenance on those poles and lines. DTE requested the easement in relation to an $8 million new electrical substation that the energy firm is building on land adjacent to the park. The Buckler substation’s site plan was approved last year by the city’s planning commission on June 5, 2012. It did not require city council approval.

The overall project entails building the substation in the utility company’s Ann Arbor service center – to provide a way to distribute an increase in electrical power to the downtown area due to increased demand for electricity. The project includes 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 source of power will be transmitted through underground sub-transmission cables in an existing manhole and conduit system.

The project also needed a variance to the 15-foot conflicting land use buffer requirements along the east side property line, adjacent Riverside Park. DTE requested a variance that would allow the firm to plant 23 trees along the far western side of Riverside Park instead of on DTE property. PAC recommended approval of that variance at its Feb. 28, 2012 meeting. It was subsequently authorized by the zoning board of appeals on June 27, 2012.

In addition to planting trees in the buffer, DTE plans to remove 15 trees along Canal Street, which will be replaced by 50 trees in other parts of the park. As stipulated by city ordinance, DTE also will be required to pay the city a “tree canopy loss” fee. According to the city’s urban forestry website, the current canopy loss rate is $186/inch for shade trees and $172/inch for ornamental trees. For this project, DTE will pay $23,800, which will be earmarked for future improvements to Riverside Park.

Construction on the substation will take place during the summer of 2013.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]