Is Progress Energy’s power plant gone for good?

About a week after Progress Energy’s proposal to build a new power plant in Woodfin was shot down by the town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment, local blog Ashvegas published an e-mail from Town Administrator Jason Young, who’s pictured here, regarding the decision.

Here is the original post by Ashvegas’ anonymous blogger, which Young later responded to:

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A little mildly interesting Monday news
Posted on Tuesday, April 3, 2007 at 07:22AM by Registered CommenterAsh | Comments13 Comments

Residents 1, Progress Energy 0
The Woodfin town board voted against a Progress Energy proposal to build an auxiliary power plant in the town Monday night (or early Tuesday morning). Residents had complained about power plant emissions and the fact that a power plant would lower property values. No official word on whether Progress Energy will appeal the decision in court. But we’ll go ahead and tell you now – Progress Energy will appeal. The power plant is an interesting conundrum. The Woodfin town board voted it down, and turned down a tax revenue boon, in part because of the massive amount of high-end home-building that’s happening there right now. The town has doubled in size over the last few years. So thanks to all the rich folks moving in to Reynolds Mountain and bitching about the possibility of property values declining, the Woodfin board votes down a new power plant. But we wouldn’t need a new power plant in the first place if all these folks weren’t moving here.
Whatever…

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Town administrator Jason Young took issue with a few of the Ash’s assertions, and responded via e-mail:

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Just a quick note on your posting about our little Town of Woodfin. Just in the interest of fairness I think a couple of points need to be clarified.
1.    The proposed plant wasn’t for additional growth capacity but for current requirements. I would be shocked if a newspaper reporter didn’t know this, so while it may be fun to heap scorn on Reynolds Mountain it just isn’t true that the proposed plant was for them or any other newcomers.
2.    The Board’s rationale for rejecting the plant was based on health and safety issues. They never voted on the matter of property values because it became moot to continue voting the Conditional Use permit conditions after that one. Unofficially, I think that the Board felt that Progress failed to make a case that the health impact on the community was going to be negligible.
3.    There were a lot of people at the meeting that lived in singlewides and other modest homes that were concerned about their property values and health – it wasn’t just the big developers that expressed concern. I know of many people that attended and stayed into the wee hours that live in my own quiet neighborhood – which is hardly Reynolds Mountain, Versant, or Altura.
In any case, if you need to do any fact checking on Woodfin please feel free to call me at your convenience.

Yours truly,
Jason Young
Town Administrator
Town of Woodfin
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The discussion continued over the weekend, as Ashvegas posted a response to Young’s response here.

The exchange raises a lot of questions, not the least of which is whether or not Progress Energy will appeal the decision. The company’s community-relations manager, Ken Maxwell,  was unavailable for comment this afternoon, but the following quote from an article in the Triangle Business Journal suggests that the company may have backed down.

“We’re continuing to evaluate our options and weigh those against the need to act quickly to ensure that there continues to be a reliable flow of energy to western North Carolina,” Progress spokesman Mike Hughes told the publication.  “There are a number of sites in other counties, each with their own pros and cons, and we’ll go back to those. We’ll also be looking for other possibilities.”

Look for more in-depth coverage of the issue in tomorrow’s new issue of Mountain Xpress.

— Rebecca Bowe, editorial assistant

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