FishHawk Residents Continue to Battle Power Line Plan

Residents said they were told the power line corridor was a conservation area.

What do you think? Should TECO be permitted to build transmission lines in FishHawk Ranch? Express your opinion in the "comments" box below.

FishHawk Ranch residents are pulling out all stops to halt through the community.

Residents are appealing to state legislators and have started a Facebook group, Stop Power Lines Now, in an attempt to convince Tampa Electric Co. to abandon its plans to install the high-voltage power lines near their neighborhoods.

Leading the protest are residents Jason and Christie VanVleet, who have lived in the Bridge View subdivision of FishHawk Ranch for three years.

Jason VanVleet said they were surprised to learn that the 200-foot-wide strip of land running from Dorman Road next to the Bridge Crossing, Bridge Walk and Bridge View subdivisions in Phase II of FishHawk Ranch was destined to become a transmission line corridor for TECO.

"We attended a meeting with TECO representatives in Wimauma April 19 and learned that the FishHawk Investment Fund sold the piece of land to TECO abutting our neighborhoods in 1998," Jason VanVleet said. "Then, in 2004, TECO sold the land back to the FishHawk Communities Limited Partnership, noting that they planned to use it for a transmission corridor."

This was news to VanVleet and his neighbors, who had been told that the vacant land next to their neighborhoods was a conservation area. Some of the community's residents, VanVleet said, had paid a premium for lots on the conservation area when the subdivisions were constructed in 2005. VanVleet said there are 61 lots in Bridge View, Bridge Crossing and Bridge Walk abutting the corridor. "That doesn't include all the homes in Channing Park," he said.

"There's nothing on any of my closing papers or documents that says the land will be used for power lines," said VanVleet. "We were told it was green space, and that’s where the community trail is as well. Now I'll have a great view of power lines from my front and back yard."

VanVleet said Newland Communities, the developer of FishHawk Ranch, already was aware that transmission lines would be built in the corridor when their homes were constructed. 

"They (Newland) sold land to TECO so TECO would have space to construct the giant poles," said VanVleet. "At the time, TECO only owned a 100-foot segment."

Newland Communities senior vice president Rick Harcrow did not return calls made by Patch seeking comment.

What TECO Has to Say

Several TECO representatives at to address residents' concerns.

The officials acknowledged that the company planned to build a 40-mile, high-voltage transmission main from TECO's Polk Power Station in southwestern Polk County through FishHawk Ranch and Channing Park, terminating at the company's FishHawk Substation.

The project also includes building a new substation near Balm-Boyette Road and Aspen Avenue, and expanding the Polk Power Station. 

"These transmission lines have nothing to do with needing more power," said VanVleet. "TECO says they have a state requirement to meet certain reliability thresholds for the whole grid, and that's why they're constructing the lines."

Christie VanVleet said she became aware of the project after receiving a letter from TECO. She began researching high-voltage lines and was distressed to discover they emit electromagnetic fields, which could pose a health hazard."

"My very first concern is I have four children," VanVleet said during Thursday evening's meeting, "and I do not want them exposed to what I consider are hazards of the EMF field created by power lines."

"There are multiple studies on the health affects of power lines and they are inconclusive," said Jason VanVleet. "They can’t prove it as a causal link to cancer, but they haven't disproved it, either. They simply don’t know if power lines pose health risks."

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences concluded that low-frequency EMFs, like those surrounding transmission lines, should be classified as a Group 2B human carcinogen under the International Agency for Research on Cancer classification scheme.

VanVleet also points out that the transmission lines are unsightly and he feels they will devalue property in the area.

"We're in the process of getting a Realtor to tell us how much the lines will lower our property values," he said. "From an economic standpoint, it will have a devastating impact. My neighbor has already canceled putting in a new swimming pool. And we were going to put a pool in this fall and have cancelled plans."

TECO spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs said the power lines would stand 90 to 120 feet but would be less unsightly than the older transmission lines.

“These are a modern design," said Jacobs. "They're better for storm hardiness, and they're much less cluttered than the old kind. So aesthetically they're an improved model."

The homeowners also have asked for a meeting with state Rep. Rachel Burgin, R-Riverview, to discuss their concerns and have launched a petition drive and door-to-door awareness campaign.

"We want to get the general public fired up so we can put pressure on TECO," said VanVleet. "We also want Newland to step up and be accountable. Whey would these lots be sold at a premium and homeowners told it was green space when they knew that transmission lines were going through the property? Newland was well aware of the plans because TECO has already built pads for the poles in the pond." 

Jacobs said the project is "very early in the process. That's why we're having these meetings, so we can get folks' opinions. If they want to propose another line, that's great, too. We'll look at that."

She said TECO hasn't even decided if building the power lines is its only option. "By 2017 we're going to need additional power," she said, and TECO is currently seeking bids to get that power from other sources, including other power companies.

Jacobs said the bidding process will end in late May, and then TECO will decide whether to continue with the Polk-to-FishHawk expansion. If TECO decides to move forward with the transmission lines, it would submit its proposal to the state Department of Environment Protection August and start construction in September 2014.

on the power line controversy.

Clarification: In an May 2 email from TECO spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs responding to Jason VanVleet's assertion that "These transmission lines have nothing to do with needing more power," Jacobs reiterated that TECO will, in fact, need additional sources of electricity by 2017. "This proposed transmission line is directly related to that," she said.

Jacobs added that TECO did not build the pads located in the pond. "The developer built them as part of the land-purchase agreement," she said.






Sandra Smith Kalnins May 02, 2012 at 06:49 PM
Melissa Sheedy May 05, 2012 at 01:29 AM
No, they should not be allowed to build high voltage power lines this close to homes and families! Young, innocent children should not be forced to take a gamble on future health issues related to the power lines ! They can not prove they are not dangerouse, therefore, put them away from the public! Plus, they will be distroying the natural habitats of wildlife. Find a new route! There's lots of open space still east of Fishhawk.
Steph Filakosky May 05, 2012 at 02:23 AM
These power lines they want to put in are not your regular, simple power lines. These are HUGE and will be so very close to homes. People paid premiums for these "conservation lots" and have been even been keeping up the lawns in these areas at their own cost. Some people want to argue that you could see that TECO owned the land, I assure you that upon further research there is some real stink to this transaction. There is MUCH that needs to be addressed here. Not just for the resident of FishHawk. This could set a precident for YOUR community as well.
K May 13, 2012 at 11:09 AM
We just built a house that was supposed to have "conservation property" back us. Our realtor told us "nothing would be built back there" and there was nothing in our contract stating otherwise. If we had known that they would be putting in power lines we absolutely 100% would not have built a brand new house there. Newland Communities had better be careful because they may have a lawsuit on their hands for having their realtor falsely advertising conservation lots which require a higher premium for the land, as well as misleading consumers and having them enter into a community with false beliefs of a conservation area. I am not alone in this feeling seeing as we are the last phase of Phase 2 in Egret Landing/Chapman Corner back part. Everyone living in this neighborhood was told that this specific area was a conservation and that nothing would be built. The neighborhood is nearly complete and filled with lots of military personel. If this goes through MacDill may want to reconsider it's relationship with Newland Community/Fishhawk if they plan to lie those who serve their county just to get people to move in. If there were clauses in the contract stating that his property may be build upon by outside stakeholders, then that is different, but those who have purchased did so under false pretense.
Melissa Sharma May 19, 2012 at 01:33 AM
FishHawk Friends & Neighbors Unite! FishHawk Town Hall Meeting Senator Ronda Storms and State House Representative Rachel Burgin Thursday, May 24th at 6:30 pm The Palmetto Club 17004 Dorman Road, Lithia, FL We have limited time to oppose TECO’s transmission line proposal. It is imperative that ALL of FishHawk Ranch makes a stand as a united community to voice our concerns and propose alternatives. FishHawk Ranch is an award winning “green” community. Let's work together to keep it this way! Craig's List Invite Link: http://tampa.craigslist.org/hil/eve/3024230108.html Evite Link: http://new.evite.com/l/WEMZCCGGM5


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