The Aegis
Harford County

Neighbors oppose Delmarva Power substation proposed for northern Harford

Deborah Jones, of Street, expresses her concerns about a Delmarva Power substation being built next to her family's farm. She spoke during a Harford County Development Advisory Committee meeting in Bel Air Wednesday.

Delmarva Power’s proposed 34KV substation off Route 646 in Street is meant to improve electrical service in the neighborhood and the utility’s service area in northeastern Harford County, but that did not stop a small group of neighbors from expressing their outrage about what they consider an intrusion in their residential and agricultural community.


“Everyone in this community recognizes the significance of what is at stake with the intrusive placement of this substation,” Deborah Jones, whose family owns the 300-acre farm and historic house next door to the site, said Wednesday.

Jones spoke during a meeting of the Harford County Development Advisory Committee in the county administration building in Bel Air. The committee was reviewing plans to build the facility on a 1.9-acre site in the 3500 block of Prospect Road, about a quarter of a mile north of the intersection of Routes 646 and 543 in Street. Jones’ husband, Maurice, and daughter, Allison, also attended.


David Seay, senior real estate representative for Delmarva Power, said the substation is needed to reduce power fluctuations and outages in the area.

Delmarva Power, headquartered in Delaware, is part of Pepco Holdings, which Exelon acquired in 2016. Exelon is the parent company of Harford County’s other power supplier, BGE.

Seay said Delmarva’s service area in Harford covers communities between Rocks State Park, Route 1, the Susquehanna River and the Mason-Dixon Line between Maryland and Pennsylvania. The Harford service area has 5,354 residential and business customers, Delmarva spokesperson Ben Armstrong said Thursday.

“This [substation] for the people in the local area, at Street, Pylesville,” Seay said. “It is not a transmission substation; there’s no huge 80-foot towers, just your standard wooden distribution poles.”

Tuesday’s opposition to the Delmarva station came amid an ongoing controversy in Harford County over big utility projects and rights-of-way for power lines in the more rural areas of the county, areas that have a high concentration of farmland and woodlands in local, state and federal conservation and protection programs.

Transource opposition

Residents in Norrisville, on the opposite end of northern Harford County, are working with supporters in the county government and the Maryland General Assembly to stop Transource Energy from building power lines between substations in eastern and western Maryland and Pennsylvania, with a section of the eastern line going through Norrisville.

“These hideous-looking power lines would go through our preserved farmland, our viable farmland, affecting numerous agri-tourism businesses, cultural resources, historical resources and our scenic byway,” County Councilman Chad Shrodes, who lives in Norrisville and represents northern Harford, said during a council session Tuesday evening.


The council voted unanimously Tuesday in favor of Resolution 001-18, stating its opposition to the project and a request that the Public Service Commission, which is reviewing the Maryland portions of the lines, deny Transource’s application.

Local legislators, including Sen. J.B. Jennings, Del. Kathy Szeliga and Del. Rick Impallaira, have filed multiple bills in Annapolis to tackle the issues surrounding the Transource project, such as taking land under the state’s eminent domain laws for utility projects.

The county government filed a petition with the PSC Tuesday to intervene against the project, spokesperson Cindy Mumby said. Harford County Executive Barry Glassman has expressed concerns about the lines going through farmland preserved through county programs.

“Our position is that the [program] doesn’t permit the transmission lines on our easements,” Mumby said Thursday.

Transource is building the lines for PJM Interconnection, a regional transmission organization that manages the grid serving 13 states; the Exelon companies are part of the grid. The new lines will be part of that grid to improve reliability and clear congestion in the distribution system.

“Competition is key to a strong wholesale electric market, and consumers benefit as new sources of power come online and compete,” Susan Buehler, chief communications officer for PJM, said in a written statement this week. “That benefit depends on sufficient infrastructure to transmit the low-cost electricity supply to consumers.”


Small project, big objections

The Delmarva Power project, while much smaller than Transource’s proposal, still drew strong opposition from its Street neighbors during Wednesday’s DAC review.

“The back of my house will stare right at this thing,” neighbor Stephen Bittner said.

Several neighbors expressed frustration about the substation being placed on land bordered by the Jones family farm on the south side and houses to the north and across Prospect Road.

“This is my farm and to see this plopped down next to where we live and we work, it’s hard,” Deborah Jones said.

The Jones family’s legacy in Harford County agriculture started in the Edgewood area — Allison Jones is the fifth generation. They purchased the land in Street from the late William Boyer in 2004, Deborah Jones said after the meeting. They raise Christmas trees and produce in Street, and they operate a well-known produce market at 2100 Philadelphia Road in Edgewood.


The family lives in a Greek revival farmhouse that dates to 1851, Deborah said. The farm and house are protected under Harford County land preservation programs, she told DAC members.

She took the county’s Department of Planning and Zoning to task, saying the same department that preserved her family’s land is considering allowing the substation, which she called a “visual intrusion,” to be built next door.

“Is this just a front, ag preservation, is it just a lie?” Jones asked.

Bittner objected to a power substation being built on agriculturally-zoned land. Moe Davenport, the DAC chairman, said, public utility facilities can built in all zoning districts to accommodate electric, water and sewer needs.

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Delmarva Power plans to build the unmanned station, surrounded by a fence, at the rear of the site, John Fellows, of the Wilmington, Del.-based Duffield Associates engineering firm, said. There will be a gravel access drive from Prospect Road and stormwater management facilities that resemble “a rain garden or a wetland area,” Fellows said.

Vegetated buffers will be planted around the perimeter, as required by county code, according to Fellows. Company representatives said there will be a few trees planted along the Prospect Road frontage, but not a full buffer.


Fellows said there will be a “cattle gate” at the entrance.

“So I’ll get to look at a lot of poles and a ditch full of water, retention pond and a cattle gate,” Mark Smithson, who lives across the street, said.

Kevin McKelvey, senior project manager with Pepco, acknowledged neighbors’ concerns.

He said the Street project, along with two other substations in Cecil County, where the utility has 46,000 customers, are required by the Public Service Commission “because our reliability had been so poor in this area.”

McKelvey pledged to work with the community as plans are revised at the county level.