- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 9, 2006

URBANA, Md. (AP) — Residents of this small but growing Frederick County town are celebrating a victory over Allegheny Power after the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) rejected the utility’s proposal to build a transmission line.

The decision last month was historic, said Delegate Richard B. Weldon Jr., Frederick County Republican, because the agency has never before turned down a request for a new power line when growth was expected.

PSC hearing examiner Dennis Sober agreed with Allegheny Power that an additional line should be installed to secure the area’s expansion, but he concluded that the proposed pathway was not in the right place.

Mr. Sober concluded that Allegheny was prioritizing the cost of the line ahead of the character of the community and the economic impact on tourism.

“The single most deficient element of [the proposed route] was its impact on the viewshed of the Urbana region,” he wrote. “The regional plan for Urbana specifically was formulated to protect the viewshed of Sugarloaf Mountain and its surrounding rural character.”

Along with residents, local and state government agencies opposed the plan, and Mr. Sober noted the extent of the opposition.

“Clearly the county has the right and the duty to decide how development will be allowed to impact on the growth and character of the region,” he wrote.

Urbana resident Kristie Melvin compared the rejection of the line to the biblical story of David and Goliath.

“It’s the magnitude of the defeat that impresses me,” she said. “We actually defeated Allegheny Power, and the Public Service Commission listened. It’s huge for the whole state of Maryland to know residents from diverse areas can band together and make it happen.”

Allegheny Power spokesman Allen Staggers said the utility has not decided whether to appeal the decision or propose building a different line.

Regulators say Urbana’s 34,500-kilovolt service will not accommodate future growth. In 1998, when Natelli Communities first extended public sewer and water service to Urbana, its downtown was about a mile long and included about 100 houses.

Natelli Communities is now building a subdivision with 3,000 homes.

Mr. Sober criticized Allegheny Power for not showing a willingness to change its route even after residents said they wanted to work with the company to find alternatives. But he said the county must do a better job of coordinating with utilities in the future.

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