Mayor Dyer and City Commissioners,
We are contacting you express our concerns about OUC’s proposed substation at Webber Street, and the negative effects such an installation would have on the future urbanization of the northern part of Downtown Orlando.
We agree with OUC that current and projected trends indicate an intensifying development environment in the CRA north of Colonial Drive. However, we believe that OUC’s plan addresses only the need for more electricity in the northern CRA, and ignores other elements essential to a comprehensive, integrated plan for the northern CRA. Specifically, the future growth of the northern CRA will require upgrades to many elements of the both the physical and social infrastructure of the northern downtown area including:
Affordable workforce housing
Access to community facilities
Un-programmed public space
Community meeting space
Each of these elements are addressed in Orlando’s Comprehensive Plan and the Mayor’s Sustainability Initiative. Yet OUC’s plan addresses only the need for increased electricity, and proposes to use up the great majority of a site which offers unique possibilities to address many of the growth challenges listed above. If constructed, OUC’s substation will for the long-term future eliminate any possibility of that site being used for any other purpose.
OUC’s substation plan applies 20th century technology appropriate to a rural or suburban site to a 21st century challenge within a rapidly growing urban core. This technology has been proposed in an effort to keep cost low, but OUC has not considered the value of any other potential uses of the site. Added electrical capacity could be provided by familiar tried and true technology suitable to a dense urban environment, such as a gas-cooled substation which would use a fraction of the space, and still preserve other opportunities for the remainder of the site. Such gas-cooled technology is already in use at the Robinson substation.
Perhaps most troublingly, OUC’s substation plan does nothing to advance the goals set forth in the City’s Sustainability Initiative. OUC could explore new cutting edge technology such as micro grids, and distributed roof-top power generation – technologies that are just now developing and the mastery of which will hold the key to future sustainability.
Instead, OUC has proposed a major investment in antiquated technology with little applicability toward the future.
Some of the urban-design/planning elements that we mentioned above have been partially addressed in specific small-scale plans and studies such as the Virginia Drive Study, Lynx Lymmo Study, and the Orange/Magnolia Study. However, these studies have been focused on specific elements and have not addressed a comprehensive vision for the northern part of Downtown consistent with changing demand.
A few decades ago, the City together with the residents of the neighborhoods surrounding the proposed substation undertook an effort to plan for the northern part of downtown including the site in question. As a result the site was rezoned to PD(Urban Village). We believe this was a wise and correct path and we believe that such a land use is still the best for the long-term success of downtown.
Thus, we urge the City to delay any decision on OUC’s proposed substation, and instead conduct a planning effort encompassing the entirety of the CRA north of Colonial Drive, to include an appropriate response to each element of the City of Orlando’s Comprehensive Plan and the Mayor’s Sustainability Initiative. We propose that such a planning effort happen before any important and irreversible land-use decisions are made, and before any zoning or land-use changes are approved.
Thank you for considering these important issues.