Coral Gables Commission to address power lines, trolley on Monday

07/29/2014 5:07 PM

07/29/2014 5:08 PM

The Coral Gables City Commission will meet Monday to discuss Florida Power & Light’s plan to build 77- to 85-foot transmission lines along Ponce de Leon Boulevard.

Commissioners will convene at 9 a.m. Monday at City Hall, 405 Biltmore Way, to talk about the costs of putting the lines underground and to consider letting residents vote on the issue in November, according to city spokeswoman Maria Rosa Higgins-Fallon.

“The City Commission requested a meeting to consider whether to place ballot language in the November election regarding undergrounding of FPL transmission lines and to receive information from staff regarding the cost and feasibility of undergrounding FPL lines,” she wrote in an email Tuesday.

The Gables was one several cities including Miami, South Miami and Pinecrest that had come together to fight FPL’s plans to build two nuclear generators at Turkey Point and run 80- to 100-foot transmission lines up U.S. 1 to a substation in Coconut Grove.

In May, Gov. Rick Scott and his Cabinet decided to allow FPL to go ahead with the building 88 miles of power lines. Right before the decision, Coral Gables City Attorney Craig Leen negotiated a settlement with the utility that took the Gables out of the dispute. The city later settled another lawsuit against FPL over violating its franchise agreement.

The terms of the settlement, call for FPL to pay the city $1.3 million, build shorter power poles, and pay for a study on the costs of putting the lines underground. Along the 2.5-mile stretch of Ponce, the poles will either be 77-, 81- or 85-feet tall.

The city will hear a presentation on the undergrounding study Monday.

A city-owned building at 4520 Ponce de Leon Blvd. could face demolition to make room for the power lines, unless the lines are put underground. FPL also agreed to keep the only tenant in that building, high-end interior decor store Azul & Co., in the building for as long as possible before the end of its lease term in 2018. If the store needs to get relocated sooner, the utility would foot the bill.

The commission will also revisit the settlement of a longstanding dispute over the a city trolley garage built in a historically black neighborhood of Coconut Grove without consulting neighbors. The discussion on a proposed condo tower at 301 Altara Ave. with a trolley garage underneath it stalled last week after city staff raised concerns over the details like the building’s height, the number of units going in and the amount of parking for residents. Commissioners will likely make a decision on the project Monday.

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