The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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The City of Oregon last Wednesday issued a stop work order on Columbia Gas of Ohio’s multi-million dollar substation expansion at Lallendorf and Brown roads after learning that the company’s site plans for the project are inconsistent with what is currently under construction.

“A heating unit appears from their renderings to be about eight feet tall,” City Administrator Mike Beazley told The Press. “But the unit as constructed is about 16 feet tall. It’s just very different than what Columbia Gas applied for, or what we and the neighbors expected. We’re going to have to come to grips with it and do something different. The rest of the cleanup will continue. But that component of it, we’ll have to come up with a solution and a plan.”

The expansion of the regulator substation that serves Oregon and parts of East Toledo is a $4 million project.

Plans include the replacement of the current substation with three new buildings surrounded by a buffer zone of trees. The company purchased property north of the site for the expansion. The company also received a variance from the zoning commission as part of the project.

The regulator substation reduces pressurized gas before it is delivered to homes and businesses. Some of the gas flows to the refineries and supports the Jeep factory. The substation directly serves 17,000 customers.

Columbia Gas officials last November met with several residents living along Brown and Lallendorf roads to address their concerns about noise, odor and the industrial appearance of the proposed buildings not blending in with the surrounding neighborhood. They worried that their property values would drop as a result. Columbia Gas sought to allay their concerns by showing renderings of the project at an architectural review committee meeting in Oregon.

Larger unit
At an Oregon City Council meeting last Monday, some of the neighbors complained that the new heating unit was much larger than what was shown in Columbia Gas of Ohio’s plans.

“It’s way, way bigger than anything that was ever discussed at any of the public hearings,” said Bob Dunlap, of Brown Road. “It looks really industrial.”

“The view from our houses, we’re going to be seeing that. I can’t imagine what it’s doing to our houses’ values,” he said. “We didn’t fight to have this go to the PUCO. We assumed the city was going to look for our best interests. This definitely isn’t.”

The buffer zone of trees that will surround the buildings would not be able to block the view of the heating unit, he said.

“Unless they are pine trees, they are not going to shield anything. This is really an eyesore,” he said.

While he knew the substation was at the location when he moved into his home over 20 years ago, it was not in the condition that it’s in currently, he said.

“Yea, it was there when I moved it. But it didn’t emit gas and wasn’t filthy looking like it has been recently. It didn’t make all the noises and howling. This is a residential area. This looks like it belongs at the refineries,” he said.

Beazley agreed.

“This does look different than the rendering we all looked at,” Beazley said to Dunlap. “We will follow up and find out what the plans are. We talked about the ambiguous nature of our regulatory authority of this. The city likes to take the position that we can enforce it. But we are in an unusual set of circumstances with folks that have a right to be there at some level and were there before some of the neighbors.”

Dave Vermett, of Brown Road, said the medium density residential neighborhoods surrounding the project should not be “subjected to Columbia Gas’s gross industrial eyesore.”

“We should not be subjected to huge losses of our property values because Columbia Gas and our representatives in this city refuse to see what a horrible effect this expansion would cause this area. Yes, Columbia Gas does have the right to exist. But not at the expense of the entire neighborhood,” said Vermett.

He asked that the project be relocated to an industrial area.


Held accountable
Councilwoman Sandy Bihn said Columbia Gas of Ohio should be held accountable for the inconsistency in the site plan.

“I want to believe in corporate America and I want to believe that things are going to be done the way they are. But Mr. Dunlap and his neighbors went through the hearings, and they were cooperative people. I went by there and I am shocked and appalled at how industrial it does look, and how different it is than what was presented to us. That kind of accountability to a corporation deserves to be called up. This isn’t right for the neighbors. It’s egregious. They’re going to look at it every day. It’s offensive. It’s wrong. And they shouldn’t tell us one thing and do another. I was totally shocked,” she said.

In addition to improving its appearance, the expansion project, according to Columbia Gas of Ohio, is expected to increase safety and decrease noise and odor. The substation will get a new, modern, state of the art regulator, the newest in the Columbia Gas infrastructure.

Newer technology will also provide round the clock coverage of pressures within the system, according to the company. Insulation within the new regulator and a reduction in the velocity of gas that flows through the pipes will reduce noise.

Older pipes that are above ground will be buried to reduce noise heard from flowing gas. The new regulator will no longer vent natural gas as a way to control pressure, thereby reducing odor.

 
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