JOHNSTOWN, Ohio (WCMH) — At least 100 Licking and Delaware County residents learned Tuesday night whether their property is on a suggested power line route, as American Electric Power (AEP) eyes a large transmission project near the site of the future Intel semiconductor plant.

Residents cycled through the Northridge High School gymnasium to meet with AEP staff about the electric provider’s recent proposal to construct infrastructure that would add to the local power grid for new and existing customers. The school parking lot was filled with cars by the 5:30 p.m. start time. 

“We always want to engage the community first, because they know their property better than anybody,” Brian Recker, an AEP project outreach specialist, said.

AEP announced in early April its plans to study the construction of a transmission line connecting the existing Vassell Substation near Sunbury to two new substations in New Albany — both along Green Chapel Road, which outlines Intel’s plot of land. 

Reeker said Wednesday that AEP does not discuss “individual customers,” including major ones like Intel. But as “energy-intensive” businesses flock to the area east of Columbus, he said the proposed new infrastructure is vital.

“With that load growth, we need to bring additional power into this region to make sure that we’re maintaining that reliable electric service for existing customers,” Reeker said. 

AEP has identified New Albany and Johnstown; Hartford, Monroe, and Jersey Townships in Licking County; and Berkshire, Trenton, and Harlem Townships in Delaware County as part of its transmission enhancements 

‘No offsetting benefit to us’ 

But as residents exited the school’s front doors Wednesday night, folded fact sheets in hand, some were dismayed at the prospect of new electric poles eventually popping up along the proposed routes — and in some of their yards. 

Longtime Johnstown resident Lynn Hill said he is worried about one suggested route, which cuts through a wooded area directly to the east of his home. He’s regularly seen everything from foxes to wild turkeys and said the construction and right-of-way clearing could be devastating. 

“The proposed AEP ‘transmission enhancements’ benefit those of us living here little, if at all, with consequences of the proposed construction being overwhelmingly negative to our properties and quality of life with no offsetting benefit to us,” Hill wrote in an email to NBC4. 

The lines would likely be “very close” to Dave Loshbough’s home. Loshbough, 60, has lived just south of Johnstown for 18 years, on property that is now situated about two miles from the site where Intel’s semiconductor fabs are being constructed. 

Loshbough does not want to leave his home of more than a decade but said he and his wife have not ruled it out — as what was once a largely quiet area hums increasingly louder with the coming and going of heavy machinery for a variety of commercial projects. 

“If we’re going to move, sell the house, I want it to be on my terms. I don’t like the idea of it being dictated to us through these circumstances,” Loshbough said in an interview.

Joe Vinciguerra, 58, lives across the Licking-Delaware county border in Harlem Township. Vinciguerra and a number of his neighbors attended the event — with fears their property value will be diminished by the project.

Harlem — and other surrounding communities — have taken action to accommodate Intel, Vinciguerra said, but this has been the biggest resulting challenge he has faced so far.

“There is new zoning in our town, which we were not thrilled with to begin with,” Vinciguerra said. “But compared to high-tension wires going through our properties, we would love to see a nursing home next to us.”

Project timeline

AEP held its second public information session Wednesday night in Sunbury. It will continue to conduct field surveys and studies through the end of the year, submitting its project application to the Ohio Power Siting Board by early 2024.

Once the OPSB greenlights the project, construction can begin — and AEP has estimated it will run through early 2026.

Throughout the course of that, starting this year, AEP will begin right-of-way communications with affected residents — mostly through property easements.