Residents concerned about possible development near Catawba Nuclear Station

YORK, SC (WBTV) - Residents who live on a peninsula below the Catawba Nuclear Station are concerned about plans by Duke Energy to sell a large tract of land to a housing developer.

Duke Energy is marketing a large plot of land it owns near the station as a residential property, a company spokeswoman confirmed. But, so far, the company does not have a buyer.

But neighbors say they their concern for the possible development grew greater when they saw a sketch of a possible neighborhood drawn up by the company selling the land on Duke's behalf.

The marketing material shows a residential development with hundreds of homes housing thousands of people.

Neighbors who currently live on the peninsula on small plots of land surrounding Duke's property say development that dense could pose a danger for current and future residents because there's only one way to get on and off the peninsula in the event of an emergency at the nuclear plant.

"There's only one road out and it leads towards the plant," neighbor Don Clarke said.

Clarke is part of a group of concerned residents known as the Catawba Nuclear Neighbors.

They meet periodically to plan out their fight against the possible development.

Clarke said he and his neighbors have had a number of meetings with Duke but have never gotten assurances that the company would ensure whoever buys the property would only build low-density development.

"Duke has taken the position that evacuation and safety are not their concern outside the boundary of the plant," Clarke said.

Making matters more frustrating for the neighbors is the fact that local planning and emergency management officials say there is nothing they can do to prevent Duke from selling the property to a developer with plans to build a high-density neighborhood.

County Manager Bill Shanahan said the county can't take any action—to re-zone the property or enact restrictions, for instance—until the property is brought and a developer submits a plan to build.

"We would look at it, we'd look at safety, we'd look at the roads, we'd look at the bridge, we'd look at the property and we would not allow anyone to do anything that was going to be unsafe toward our citizens," Shanahan said.

But the county manager said his agency can't proactively re-zone property in anticipation of a sale of the land.

"You create an ordinance or you create zoning that is based on what is the best use for the property," Shanahan said. "You don't create it because you want to stop something or hurt somebody."

Clarke said he and his neighbors aren't opposed to houses being built on the site, they're just opposed to the level of density shown on the current marketing plans for Duke's property.

"Do it smart, safely and keep density down which will ease the emergency management burden of trying to take care of that population in the event of an emergency," Clarke said.

A spokeswoman for Duke Energy provided the following statement:

Our company has an obligation to all stakeholders to best manage our assets and resources. We continuously evaluate the best use of our assets, including property. Our needs change as our business changes, and we have determined that we no longer have a business need for this property (348 acres south of Concord Rd). The property was originally part of the land purchased to support operations at Catawba Nuclear Station, but has not been needed. We plan to sell it as one tract.

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