Opponents of Dominion Power's plan to erect towers across the James River were happy about the ruling by the Virginia Supreme Court, but realize the issue is far from decided.
"I think it's great that it's being sent back to the State Corporation Commission," said Jim Zinn, a trustee and founder of the Save The James Alliance. The grass roots group was the primary opponent of Dominion's project. "We're happy for our partners in James City County, which will get to decide on the Special Use Permit for the switching station."
County Administrator Bryan Hill was reluctant to comment since Dominion has never filed an application with the county for the switching station. "I have to wait for them to go to DRC (Development Review Committee), then the Planning Commission and then to the Board of Supervisors. There's no case pending in front of me."
"I'm glad to see the Virginia Supreme Court uphold localities' zoning authority over transmission lines, but that's a limited issue," Williamsburg City Manager Jack Tuttle said Thursday afternoon. "It doesn't go to the larger issue."
Zinn also addressed that larger issue — the proposed towers and their effect on views of the James River from the area's historic sites. "I'm disappointed the court did not overturn the SCC's ruling on historic impact. I think now the Army Corps of Engineers will be front and center, and we expect an announcement of a full environmental impact study in a few weeks."
Dominion was quick to point to the SCC's ruling in its own press release.
"With this ruling, the company will continue to move forward with plans to construct this critical infrastructure so that reliable electric service in the region can be maintained," the release stated. "The Supreme Court upheld the SCC's determination that 'the selected route reasonably minimizes adverse impacts on [historic] resources in the Historic Triangle.'"
Colonial Williamsburg, which previously opposed to the towers, was less talkative on the new developments. "We are not commenting on today's ruling," spokesman Joe Straw said in an email.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation, which is opposing the line's in the federal approval process, said the ruling "energizes" the opposition.
"There are multiple, alternative locations where Dominion Power could locate its power line project to service the region, yet there is only one James River at Jamestown," said the trust's president, Stephanie K. Meeks.
The court "ruled in favor of retaining local control over this very important land-use issue … bringing us one step closer to recognizing the James' unique place in our history as the cradle and capital of early colonial settlement," Meeks said. "All of us who cherish the significance of this historic region are energized by today's ruling."