Zoning Board hears PSE&G plans
Two PSE&G substations will receive upgrades to support an anticipated 12 percent increase in electricity demand over the next 10 years.
The Zoning Board of Adjustment granted preliminary site plan approval Wednesday for improvements at substations on West Second Street and South Second Street. Newer and bigger equipment will increase capacity from 2,600 volts to 6,900 volts to meet increased demand.
The projects are part of 69 upgrades mandated by grid operator PJM, project manager Michael Luciani said. Both substations were built in the 1950s and are at the end of their useful lives, he said.
The improvements also include lightning masts, new fencing and landscaping.
Zoning Board Chairman D. Scott Belin objected to a type of fencing that he said looked like a cage.
"I have the feeling you want to put a cage in our downtown," Belin said.
Proposed to replace chain-link fencing with barbed wire on top, the non-metallic fencing had holes too small for a toehold to climb. Belin repeatedly insisted it was cage-like and wanted a decorative fence instead, as the site is downtown between a proposed 148-unit housing development and the historic Titsworth-Sutphen house. The applicant agreed to put decorative fencing on the three sides that do not abut the railroad tracks to the south.
Board member Jim Spear wanted cameras at the site, but Luciani said PSE&G has never done that.
A large tree will be removed and new ones in containers will be used, as the sidewalk cannot be opened for planting. As for noise, the improved facility will be quieter than it is now.
On the South Second Street site, board concerns included keeping out trespassers, as someone was found sleeping inside the substation. The board also wanted more of the front to be landscaped, because it faces homes. A retention basin will be created on the Clinton Avenue side of the site. The board debated whether a large number of trees on the site should be kept or removed. Originally, 176 trees were to be clear-cut, but some will be saved. Flowering trees will be planted along the South Second Street side.
Lightning masts will be 55 feet high at the South Second Street substation and 45 feet high at the West Second Street substation.
Attorney Glenn Kienz had hoped for PSE&G to receive preliminary and final approvals for the two projects Wednesday, but the board only voted for preliminary approvals which will be memorialized at the June 4 meeting. The board will not meet in July, so the soonest final approvals can be given is at the Aug. 6 meeting. Construction is expected to take 12 to 15 months and PSE&G must also seek other approvals, but Nierstedt said the company could begin construction at its own risk while awaiting final Zoning Board approval.
The work is not expected to affect traffic at either site except for arrival of heavy equipment and PSE&G will coordinate everything with the Plainfield Police Division, Kienz said.