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Final River Oaks annexation reading tonight

Also, plans to switch wholesale electric providers

Posted: September 10, 2018 5:01 p.m.
Updated: September 11, 2018 1:00 a.m.

Residents and others who plan to attend tonight’s Camden City Council meeting should be prepared to be in for a long haul. Among the dozen or so items on the proposed agenda are final annexation of the River Oaks Shopping Center and a proposal for the city to terminate its electric wholesale agreement with Duke Energy in favor of one with a Florida-based company with a generating station in North Carolina.

About a third of the way through the meeting, council will enter executive session to discuss three items:

• Economic development matters related to the annexation of real property,

• the use of real property for economic development projects, and

• the contractual matters related to the city’s wholesale purchase power agreements.

Immediately after coming out of executive session, council will take up the second reading of an ordinance authorizing the annexation of the remainder of the River Oaks Shopping Center with an interim zoning classification of Commercial Mixed Use. A small portion of the shopping center, upon which Chick-Fil-A sits, was annexed into the city prior to the restaurant being constructed. The ordinance recognizes, as reported Friday, that BMS Camden LLC, an ancillary company to developer Bright-Meyers 2001 LLC, now owns the property.

BMS purchased the property on Aug. 31 from Wateree Associates LLC for $5.1 million. BMS filed submitted a supplement to the annexation request the same day.

Second (and final) reading of the annexation request follows news that BMS signed lease agreements with Hobby Lobby and Marshalls for portions of the former Kmart that anchored River Oaks. Those agreements and other documents also show that Big Lots will remain where it is; the store installed new signage on Thursday.

Wateree Associates submitted the original annexation petition in late May. Council passed first reading of the annexation request a month later at its June 26 meeting. Also during that and a subsequent meeting, council passed an incentive agreement for Bright-Meyers to redevelop the shopping center.

Those incentives include paying the costs of constructing and installing utility infrastructure, including relocating water and sewer mains and extending such services to the property; rebating water and sewer tap, meter, permitting, impact, zoning, plan review and building permit fees, which Bright-Meyers would pay up front, after the completion of the project and within 30 days of being issued a certificate of occupancy; and a façade improvement grant of up to $30,000.

There is no word on exactly when Hobby Lobby and Marshalls will open its Camden stores.

Duke out, NTE in?

The item that is likely to take up much of tonight’s meeting -- both in executive session and afterward -- is first reading of a proposed ordinance that would accomplish two things if passed: a) terminate the city’s wholesale electric power purchase agreement with Duke Energy, the most recent version of which dates from Jan. 1, 2014; and b) establish a new wholesale power agreement with NTE Southeast Electric Company LLC.

NTE is an LLC formed by NTE Energy, whose corporate offices are in Saint Augustine, Fla., but also maintains a northeast office in Waltham, Mass. According to its website, NTE operates or is building five “projects,” including three in North Carolina:

• Kings Mountain Energy Center -- a 475 megawatt (MW) natural gas electric generating facility in Cleveland County, N.C., just west of Gastonia, N.C., which just began operating on Aug. 28 to serve more than 400,000 homes in the Carolinas.

• Reidsville Energy Center -- an approximately 500 MW natural gas in Rockingham County that NTE began constructing this year and should be operational by 2021 to serve 450,000 homes.

• Fayetteville Solar Energy Center -- a 30 MW “Greenfield” solar electric generating facility planned for near Fayetteville, N.C., using 124,000 photovoltaic modules; construction is expected to begin this year and become operational in 2020.

In addition, a press release issued in May announced that NTE’s next project will be the 1,000 MW Anderson County Energy Center in South Carolina’s Anderson County. It will represent a more than $1 billion investment by the company with the hopes of providing power to more than 1 million South Carolina businesses and households. NTE estimates that -- allowing for development and permitting -- the Anderson facility could come on line by 2024.

The company also announced in February that it had signed a long-term power purchase agreement with the town of McCormick near the Georgia border for 20 years starting in 2019.

In addition to opening the Kings Mountain plant, NTE recently cut the ribbon on its Middletown Energy Center in Butler County, Ohio, which appears to be nearly identical to the one at Kings Mountain. The company also plans to open the Killingly Energy Center in Connecticut, a 650 MW plant, in 2022.

According to documents attached to tonight’s agenda, the NTE agreement would begin Jan. 1, 2021 -- effectively terminating the city’s current agreement with Duke on Dec. 30, 2020 -- and run through Dec. 31, 2040.

According to a table included in the NTE agreement, the city would pay the company $11.66 per “kilowatt month” (kW-mo) for the first year, 2021. The rate would slowly increase over time through 2040, when it would reach $18.50/kW-mo. However, the agreement also offers an alternative capacity rate, where all the figures are to be determined.

The city would have to provide alternative, or fixed billing demand, values to NTE by Dec. 15, 2020. It appears to assume a 7 percent discount, but must not be less than the $11.66/kW-mo, the initial rate proposed for 2021 in the original table.

This is not the first time the city has considered ending its agreement with Duke Energy. In September 2012, council used a portion of a work session to discuss the possibility of switching to a new provider when it’s then-current contract with Duke ran out at the end of 2013. This was around the time Progress Energy, from which the city had originally received its wholesale power, merged with Duke. The city sent out requests for proposals to a large number of companies, including Santee Cooper, SCE&G, Central Electric Power Cooperative, Lockhart Power and Piedmont Municipal Power Agencies in South Carolina, along with a number of companies in Georgia, North Carolina and Florida.

Ultimately, however, the city chose to stay with Duke. In fact, a year later, in November 2013, council voted to start incrementally raising electric rates to customers due to an expected 12.4 percent increase in purchasing electricity from Duke. At the time, customers paid $112.87 for 1,000 kW hours. A 6 percent increase that went into effect January 2014 brought the rate to $119.60, which the city said was still significantly lower than what customers could have paid had they switched to another provider.

Tonight’s agenda documents do not indicate what rates customers might end up paying under NTE.

Also tonight:

• Areatha Clark will make a presentation on behalf of the Santee-Lynches Council of Governments.

• Council will consider proclaiming the week of Sept. 17-23 as Constitution Week.

• Council will consider second and final readings of ordinances authorizing the purchase of adjacent properties on Arthur Lane and Market Street.

• Council will consider first reading of an ordinance amending Chapter 32 of the city code relating to the Board of Construction Appeals.

• Council will consider first relating of an ordinance relating to the recovery of collection costs.

• Council will consider a resolution authorizing the city manager to purchase from the Historic Camden Foundation a 3.53-acre portion of Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site’s property on the east side of Broad Street just up from Ehrenclou Drive. According to the resolution, the city wants to purchase the property as “the first step in the potential development of the property into a regional tourism facility.” The city is proposing to purchase the property for $5; it is the location upon which the Kershaw County Farmers Market conducted business before moving to its present site between Broad and Market streets.

• Council will consider reappointing Becky Witwer to the Camden Historic Landmarks Commission for a term to expire Aug. 31, 2022.

Tonight’s meeting is open to the public and will be held on the second floor of Camden City Hall, 1000 Lyttleton St., Camden.

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