Shadyside Residents Concerned About AEP Plans for
Residents voiced concerns Monday about a possible American Electric Power project on Wegee Road at the south end of the village.
Chis Wasko, who served as spokesman for the group of about a dozen people attending a council meeting, said many fear the project could be a high voltage switching station or a substation and possibly lead to harmful health effects and a reduction in property values. He asked Village Council to draft a letter of opposition and send it to AEP.
Council members replied that AEP’s intentions are still unclear, but Mayor Bob Newhart said he would ask an AEP representative to come to the next council meeting at 6 p.m. May 24. He said AEP likely will schedule a public meeting in the coming weeks to hear from residents.
During the meeting, Wasko said they fear an electromagnetic hypersensitivity reaction to an electromagnetic field. He also said they have concerns about declining property values.
“Having an industrial complex such as a utility there could drastically affect the value of our properties,” he said.
He said the proposed site is in the vicinity of homes and one of the local school buildings.
Wasko said AEP has not contacted the public. He said another site should be considered.
Council members said they need more information about AEP’s intentions before committing to a letter of opposition.
“We’ve been in contact with AEP, and AEP wants to meet with concerned village residents and try to come to an agreeable solution,” Newhart said prior to the meeting. “AEP is upgrading their service. … We need electricity. If they want to upgrade and make the distribution better, I think we should be able to cooperate with the citizens. The citizens and AEP should be able to find a solution. … The gentleman (from AEP) who contacted me this afternoon said he does want a town hall meeting.”
Talk also turned to the legality of placing a utility facility in a residential area. Councilman Nick Ferrelli said village zoning ordinances permit it.
Wasko said the ordinance was written in 1960 when Shadyside was developing and sparsely populated. Ferrelli said there was a procedure to alter the ordinance.
Village Solicitor Tom Ryncarz said it was unlikely a change could be applied retroactively and that there are exceptions for utilities that AEP could use. He said such a route probably would not withstand a legal challenge.
Newhart said the house in question has not yet been sold. The property, about 2 acres, is owned by Tim Newhart, Bob Newhart’s brother, and the mayor said Tim Newhart had signed sale papers but AEP has not.
“Nothing’s been stated in writing to council or to anybody … There’s been a lot of discussions, talk, hearsay,” Ryncarz said.
“It’s still up in the air. It is still in the planning stage,” Newhart said. “They want to hear your opinions.”
Afterward, Wasko said opposition to any project of concern would continue. He added the group could gather a petition with numerous signatures.
“We have over 100 now, and that was just a day and a half. I think in time, we’ll have a lot more,” he said, adding he hopes council members will join them in opposing the project.
Superintendent John Haswell of the Shadyside Local School District was contacted afterward and said he had only recently heard of AEP’s interest in the area. He said the district would take no stance until more information is available.