Downtown substation eyed

BAR HARBOR — Emera Maine power company is now considering building their new substation at the site of the outdated Edgewood Street substation downtown.

After months of discussions, protests and court filings over their controversial plans to build a new substation on three acres of previously wooded land on Woodbury Road, Emera is now investigating the feasibility of using the Edgewood Street site.

Emera operates an existing substation in a circa-1900 brick building on Edgewood Street, next to the MDI YMCA. Project manager Kendra Overlock recently contacted Town Manager Cornell Knight to find out if the building was designated as historic by the town and what the process might be for dismantling it. She also asked whether the town had a preference for keeping the building if given the option.

“Once we know what constraints exist (or not) with the existing building, then Emera Maine will be able to move forward with cost and design analysis on that site,” Overlock wrote to Knight on Nov. 25.

In a follow up email the next day, town code enforcement officer Angela Chamberlain informed Overlock that the building is, in fact, on the town’s list of historic properties, and that any changes to it, including demolition, would have to be reviewed by the design review board.

Town councilors weighed in on whether the building should be kept or not on Tuesday, and after some debate, approved a motion by Peter St. Germain stating that they preferred the building be kept, if at all practical, if that site is chosen for the new substation. The vote was five to two, with Gary Friedmann and David Bowden in opposition.

Friedmann vigorously argued against the motion, stating that power company officials are clearly sensitive after the months of controversy over their Woodbury Road plans, and that the motion would send the wrong message.

“I think the most important thing is that the town shows Emera we want to work with them in putting a substation in an appropriate place,” Friedmann said.

According to design review board policies, the owner of a historic building must apply for a certificate of appropriateness from the design review board for the whole or partial demolition. The board then has the choice of either issuing the certificate or not.

If the certificate is issued, following board review, then the demolition may begin immediately. If the board does not issue a certificate, however, the applicant may still demolish the building, but must wait for four months to do so.

Opponents of the Woodbury Road substation proposal this week said that they were enthused by Emera’s consideration of the Edgewood Street site.

The “news that Emera is considering upgrading the current Edgewood Substation with 21st century switch gear technology is a win/win for all of Bar Harbor,” opposition attorney and Woodbury Road neighbor Arthur Greif said.

Emera representatives could not be reached for comment by press time Wednesday.

The planned substation would be the final phase of the MDI Reliability Project which Emera began several years ago. The project has involved creating a second set of power lines coming onto Mount Desert Island and creation of a new substation in Somesville. A plan to run new power transmission lines from Town Hill to the new substation downtown also has been the subject of protests and a formal complaint, and the PUC has included the latter in their substation investigation.

Robert Levin

Robert Levin

Former reporter Robert Levin covered the people, businesses, governmental and nonprofit agencies of Bar Harbor. [email protected]
Robert Levin

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