Duke Energy Cowans Ford dam

Looking south from Cowans Ford Dam, operated by Duke Energy.

The issue: Duke Energy needs a conditional-use permit  

Siemens Energy, Inc. teamed with Duke Energy to develop a combustion turbine to help  expand a Duke Energy combustion-turbine power plant. The location of the new turbine is in an I-G, or General Industrial, district. The site for the new turbine is a 638-acre tract at 6760 Old Plank Road in Stanley, near Trilogy Lake Norman. According to the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), an electrical generation plant is classified as a major utility and requires a conditional use permit in the I-G district. In the new Lincoln County Land Use Plan, the area is considered Special Use, meaning Siemens’s plans would be consistent with the land use plan once it’s approved. However, part of the plan doesn’t fit within UDO standards. 

 

What happened: Portions not compliant with the UDO

Siemens is proposing a structure to enclose the turbine that is taller than the maximum height permitted per the UDO – the maximum height for a closed structure is 60 feet, the structure proposed is 90 feet. Duke Energy already submitted an application to Lincoln County Board of Adjustment to get the height approved. County staff recommends the final decision, a vote from commissioners, should be delayed until the board of adjustment makes a ruling on the building height. The information regarding the adjustment case or the proposed enclosed structure was not included in the packet given to commissioners – the same packet that becomes open to the public on the day of board meetings. The height issue didn’t come to light until after the conditional use permit request was submitted. 

 

What it means: Commissioner uncomfortable taking a vote 

Commissioners, namely Martin Oakes, didn’t feel adequately informed because the information about the enclosed structure and the case being sent to the board of adjustment wasn’t provided before the board of commissioners April 2 meeting when the case was presented. The board first heard about the height issue during the public hearing. Lincoln County Attorney Wesley Deaton said introducing new information in a public hearing regarding a conditional use permit is not illegal per se, but he did make note that the omission of this information from the agenda packet did not follow typical board protocol and procedure. Oakes wanted to table the conversation until the application included all pertinent information – including information regarding the 90-foot enclosure structure. 

 

What’s next: More discussion is needed before the vote 

Some commissioners wanted more time to look at the enclosed structure plans before taking a vote or letting the case proceed, and wanted more information added to Siemens’ proposal, including new findings about the enclosed structure. Oakes motioned to table the conversation until the board has time to review the entire packet of information. In addition to Oakes, Commissioner Anita McCall was also vocal about wanting more time to look through the entire case and sided with Oakes’ motion to table conversations. Commissioners McCall, Richard Permenter and Oakes voted to table the hearing – Chairman Bill Beam and Commissioner Carrol Mitchem opposed. Duke Energy will likely come back to the board of commissioners in May with illustrations, details and updates regarding the turbine and proposed enclosed structure. The case will still be heard by the board of adjustment as planned.

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