American Electric Power Co.'s plans to build a larger power station at the northeast corner of Dublin Road and Fifth Avenue in Marble Cliff have not been greeted with enthusiasm by village officials or residents.

The village is exploring what options, if any, it might have to discourage or prevent AEP from going forward with the project, Mayor Matt Cincione said.

That potentially could include legal action, he said.

AEP has not filed an application for the project with the Ohio Power Siting Board, the agency that reviews and approves applications for construction of major utility facilities, said Matt Schilling, a spokesman for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

"We're expecting to file an application before the end of (March)," AEP spokesman Scott Blake said.

AEP plans to build a combined transmission and distribution substation to replace the existing substation at the site.

The company purchased the 4.8-acre site, including the buildings at 2200 and 2300 W. Fifth Ave., for $5.15 million in August 2019 from Capitol Equities.

"The larger substation will allow us to add capacity to serve the increasing demand we're getting in the surrounding area, including Upper Arlington, Grandview Heights, Marble Cliff and Columbus," project manager Andrew Johnson said.

"We will be able to provide our customers with greater electric-service reliability," he said.

The current transmission line over Riverside Drive would be extended from the west to the new expanded substation, Johnson said.

The goal is to have the new substation built and operating by fall 2021, he said.

The two buildings would be demolished as part of the project, Johnson said.

The village's opposition to the project relates to both the financial and aesthetic impact the new substation could have on Marble Cliff, Cincione said.

When fully occupied, the two buildings on West Fifth Avenue provided about 10% of the village's total income-tax revenue, he said.

Two of the businesses, Zipline Logistics and TeamDynamix, plan to stay in Marble Cliff by moving their offices from 2300 W. Fifth Ave. to 1600 Dublin Road.

The tenants at 2200 W. Fifth Ave. are moving to new locations: PDS Planning to Dublin and Coastal Ridge Real Estate to the 80 on the Commons building in downtown Columbus.

In 2019, the two buildings on West Fifth Avenue provided about $167,000 in income-tax revenue, fiscal officer Cindy McKay said. The village's total income-tax revenue for the year was $1,675,610.

For a small village such as Marble Cliff, the main impact of the lost income-tax revenue most likely would be felt if there were another economic downturn or unexpected expense, Cincione said.

The northeast corner of Fifth Avenue and Dublin Road is a gateway not only to Marble Cliff but the surrounding area, he said.

"A substation of this size is not what we want people to see as they enter our community," Cincione said.

"We really haven't seen any indication from AEP of a plan to provide screening that would overcome what's going to be built there," he said.

AEP at some point will present a proposal for screening of the site, Blake said, but the details remain under development.

"We want to work with the village to come up with a plan that will hopefully address their concerns," he said.

Fifty residents attended a public-information meeting AEP held Feb. 19 at Village Hall, and "pretty much all of them were opposed to the substation project," Cincione said.

"One of the reasons we were eager to hold the meeting was to try to gauge what the community thought about this," he said. "I think the turnout demonstrated what we needed to know."

Marsha Thomas was among the residents who attended the meeting.

"My two main concerns were the aesthetics of the thing and the loss of income to the village," she said. "I was interested in seeing if AEP would have some ideas for addressing those issues, but I didn't really hear anything to allay my concerns."

Most of her neighbors are upset about the planned substation, Thomas said.

"It's hard to see what Marble Cliff is going to get out of this," she said.

Once AEP files its application with the Ohio Power Siting Board, the public and the village will have an opportunity to provide feedback, Schilling said.

Residents may submit informal written comments to the board via email at contact OPSB@puco.ohio.gov or by mail to the Ohio Power Siting Board, 180 E. Broad St., Columbus 43215.

Board staff will review the application, make a formal request for comments from other agencies and parties, then make a recommendation to the board, Schilling said.

At that time, a public hearing will be held, during which residents can make comments, he said.

Local governments also have a right to participate in the case and can appeal a board decision to the Ohio Supreme Court, Schilling said.

For more information about the board and the application process, go to opsb.ohio.gov. The case also will be listed on the website when AEP submits its application.

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