PPL Utilities Plan for New Electric Substation in Downtown Allentown Met with Concern from Local Residents

Ten years ago homebuilder Nic Zawarski and Sons purchased three underutilized parking lots in downtown Allentown, Pennsylvania. Fourteen luxury townhomes were built on one of the lots, but when the housing bubble burst, plans for the other two lots were scrapped. ­­­Now in 2016, the city has seen a revival and the demand for electricity has increased.

In response to this additional need for electricity, PPL Electric Utilities, who purchased one of the lots in 2014 for $345,000, has plans to build an extensive downtown electrical substation. A 16-foot concrete fence will be built on two sides of the almost one-acre property and the other two sides will house a 16-foot “opaque security fence”. These barriers will conceal the substation equipment according to Kurt Blumenau, PPL spokesman.

“The new substation is designed to improve reliability for all customers in the area, as well as to handle additional demand created by downtown development,” said Blumenau.

Jeff Fegley, co-owner of Fegley’s Brew Works expressed concern with the building of the new substation. Fegley and his family are owners of six homes in the neighboring “The Townes at Trexler Square” and are concerned that the substation may impose health risks for nearby residents. He is also concerned that the unsightly substation will cause his property values to decline.

Blumenau defended the project and said that nearby property owners were advised of the project via letters sent in February. According to Blumenau, information about the plans for the substation were included in the letters. While he said that PPL is committed to keeping property owners informed about the project, he said PPL has no plans to release drawings of the facilities, citing security concerns. Blumenau also commented on the health concerns stating that there is no evidence that low-level electromagnetic fields cause any health issues.

Concerned property owners may file complaints with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

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