Seminole takes steps toward expansion

No firm commitment on potential plant

Officials from Seminole Electric Cooperative aren’t sure if they want to build another facility in Putnam County, but they are beginning a timeline to do so in case they green light the project. 

Earlier this week, the Putnam County Planning Commission recommended the Board of County Commissioners approve three items to help the power company with its potential plans to build its third unit, located at 890 N. U.S 17 in East Palatka. 

In August, Seminole CEO Lisa Johnson told local officials and residents the company was considering building a new facility. And if Seminole followed through with those plans, she said, the company would build in Putnam if it benefited Seminole. 

On Friday, Seminole Communications Manager Ryan Hart said there was still no verdict on whether the company would build the plant in East Palatka, but Putnam was the only area the company submitted planning requests. 

“Seminole has identified a power supply need in 2021,” Hart said. “Our board has not made a decision how to proceed. And one option is to build a facility in Putnam County.”

The Planning Commission on Wednesday recommended approval to amend the future land use element of the county’s Comprehensive Plan. The item was in for linear facilities – pipes, cables, highways, power lines and other items that transmit gas, electricity or water – to be permitted in all future land use categories and zoning districts. 

Seminole also requested the future land use designation for parcels at the East Palatka property change from part agricultural, industrial and rural residential to public facilities. 

Planning Services and Development Director Brian Hammons said Seminole wanted to build a coal-powered plant about 10 years ago, but then-Gov. Charlie Crist nixed those plans. The county began making zoning changes then, he said, so the current zoning changes are somewhat of a continuation of the previous plans. 

“We had already gone through the process of modifying that PUD zoning,” Hammons said. “This time, (Seminole wants) to do a Unit 3 (construction), but it will be gas powered – natural gas powered.”

The Comprehensive Plan text amendment and the large-scale map designation changes must be reviewed by the state Department of Economic Opportunity and other state agencies before county commissioners can vote whether to approve the changes, Hammons said. 

The request for a zoning change from part planned unit development and part agriculture to full planned unit development, which the Planning Commission also recommended for approval, will be held until the other two matters get approval from the state, Hammons said. 

He said the plan was to present the three items to the Board of County Commissioners at the same time. 

Although there are no concrete plans to build a plant in Putnam County – and the demand for it a new plant is about four years away – Seminole needs to begin the process now to stay on schedule, Hart said. 

“We’re continuing to work through the process,” Hart said. “The timeline for us constructing a new facility there, if we decide to build, begins now.”

Palatka Daily News

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