By Brandon D. Oliver, Palatka Daily News
Power company has not officially approved project
Putnam County Commissioners were eager to approve measures that could lead to Seminole Electric Cooperative constructing a new gas-fired facility at its Putnam location.
In a unanimous vote, commissioners – on the recommendation of the Putnam County Planning Commission – gave the green light to transmit Seminole’s requested Future Land Use amendment to the state Department of Economic Opportunity and other state agencies for approval.
“These approvals with the county are the first step in the permitting process for us to take to ultimately get permission to build this new gas-fired facility,” said David Kezell, Seminole’s director of engineering. “There are multiple other steps, where you will be involved in them as well.”
Seminole requested amending the Land Use Map by changing about 1,804.6 acres of the plant’s industry-zoned property, about 187.4 acres of its agriculture-zoned property and about 4.5 acres of its rural residential-zoned property and make it all zoned public facilities.
If constructed, the Seminole addition would have a taxable value from $488 million to $655 million, Kezell said.
Kezell said Seminole has made every effort to be respectful to neighboring properties while not negatively impacting the environment.
The new facility will be 1,300 feet from the nearest Seminole property line and about 2,000 feet from the nearest residence, he said.
“The location that we selected there on the south side of the facility allowed us to do a number of things,” Kezell said. “One (thing) is stay away from wetlands. We don’t anticipate any wetland impacts on the site. It allowed us to stay relatively distant from our nearest neighbors.”
The state Department of Economic Opportunities, Department of Transportation and other state agencies must first approve the changes to the Land Use Map because the project is large-scale, Planning Manager Mike Brown said. It would take about 35 days for the state agencies to review the case, he said.
In addition to the Department of Economic Opportunity reviewing the zoning changes and how it will affect the property and surrounding areas, Brown said, the transportation department will also review Seminole’s traffic analysis and the improvements officials plant to make to ease traffic during construction.
Seminole officials expect excess capacity on U.S. 17 and West River Road – where its two entrances are located – and plan to install a traffic signal at the U.S. 17 entrance to increase traffic safety, Brown said.
The power company also wants to install an additional left turn lane on the southbound lane of U.S. 17.
“The construction phase will take about 33 months, as estimated,” Brown said Tuesday. “The peak construction employment will be in excess of 500.
“(Seminole has) identified improvements needed to make traffic flow well during the construction phase. If DOT warrants and permits those improvements … those improvements will remain in place.”
Brown said the Planning Commission in December also recommended approval of an amendment to the Planned Unit Development at Seminole, and that request –which doesn’t require state approval – will go before the board when the state returns the Land Use Map amendment request.
No one at the board meeting spoke against the construction project, and commissioners were delighted to inch closer to the completion of the potential facility.
“I think it’s exciting what could happen with the Seminole project as far as Putnam County with jobs created from construction and permanent jobs and definitely the tax base for the county,” Commissioner Bill Pickens Jr. said.
The planned unit development amendment is to allow a gas-fired facility at the plant, a project overdue by 11 years, Commission Chairman Larry Harvey said.
In 2006, the planned unit development was amended to allow the construction of a coal-fired plant at the Putnam location, but then-Gov. Jeb Bush nixed the plan.
Harvey expressed gratitude the power company wanted to continue expansion in the county, considering the 2006 flub.
“Thank you, Seminole, for looking at us again and taking the opportunity that we missed in 2006,” Harvey said. “I’ll go on record and say Putnam County would not be in recession had we gone ahead in 2006. We will work hard to make sure this is a good thing for Putnam County.”