Residents: Dominion Power giving businesses a break

Posted at 7:32 PM, May 01, 2012
and last updated 2012-05-01 23:05:49-04

 HENRICO, Va. (WTVR)--Some residents forced by Dominion Virginia Power to alter their property because of a major power upgrade, said they are not being treated the same as the business community.

Melba Wright said her father took great pride in renovating his West End home with his own two hands.

Despite getting building permits from Henrico County years ago for the project, Wright said her father was informed in April that he would have to remove the renovated section of his house that fell within a 75-foot easement.

Wright said her father lost his battle with cancer last Monday and now the responsibility to remove the renovated section of his house is falling on his three children.

“It was devastating to him to think he was going to lose half his house,” said Wright.

The work has begun for more than 500 people who live in the right-of-way of 11 miles of transmission lines belonging to Dominion Virginia Power.

Dominion said it’s planning to add higher voltage lines between its Northwest and Lakeside Substations.  Dominion said it’s necessary to enforce the 75-foot easement rule because of safety and accessibility for work crews.

Other homeowners said they are being told to remove sheds, decks, even furniture that falls within the easement, even though they are required to maintain and pay real-estate taxes on the property.

Homeowners also told CBS 6 they don’t believe the same standards are being applied to businesses.

Mike O’Brian, a sales manager with Crown Acura on West Broad Street, said Dominion has asked the company to move cars before to accommodate work on transmission lines. However, he said the dealership has not been asked to make permanent changes to accommodate Dominion’s new project.

Several dealership cars are parked directly below transmission lines.

“We’re kind of land locked and the space we have is very precious,” said O’Brian.

Attorney Frank Rennie with Cowan Gates, said Dominion is within its legal rights because of eminent domain rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

Rennie said from a fairness perspective, the homeowners could have an argument.

“It certainly gives every impression to the landowner that they’re not being given the benefit of the doubt that others are being given,” said Rennie.

Dominion claimed that the same standards apply to both businesses and homeowners.  The company said permanent structures are the big concern.

Dominion also argues it’s been working diligently with homeowners since last June to resolve problems and concerns, and emphasizes homeowners can appeal to keep certain structures on their property.

Melba Wright said now, more than ever, she needs a good neighbor in Dominion. “It’s something we don’t think we should have to be dealing with right now.”