TAMPA — Last week, Progress Energy Florida mailed 20,000 letters inviting property owners to a series of open houses.
The utility said it may add about 200 miles of power lines across 10 counties, including Hillsborough, Citrus, Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas and Polk, and it wants to hear their opinions.
"At least one proposed corridor could impact your property," wrote Gail Simpson, the agency's manager of public policy.
The letter didn't tell Dave Colgan how close the lines could be to the home he's building in Lutz.
"We don't know what the proposed project is," said Maggie Wilson, a consultant to the Tampa Palms Community Development District.
On Tuesday, more than 150 people came to the Alfano Conference & Banquet Center in Tampa to get some answers.
Progress Energy had computers for people to type in their address and see the proximity of the lines to their homes. Colgan's new home fell smack dab in one route being studied.
The agency wouldn't specify which neighborhoods could be affected, only that one segment of the lines could run from Tarpon Springs to Kathleen in Polk County and cut through much of northern Hillsborough.
"We don't know where the lines will go," company spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs said. "We don't even know whether the lines will be built."
State and federal approval for the project could take until the end of 2009. The company proposes lines anywhere from 230 to 500 kilovolts, suspended from single steel (110 or 165 feet tall, 9 feet wide) or H-frame poles (120 feet tall, 5 feet wide) that would be 700 to 1,300 feet apart.
The lines are needed, Jacobs said, to meet a state demand for power expected to climb 25 percent over the next decade.
At least one civic group wasn't hearing it. The Northdale Civic Association, which represents 2,900 families and has about 200 homes within 50 feet of the proposed corridor, urged members to attend today's open house at the Westshore Marriott and express "strong opposition."
"Active power lines have questionable health concerns," and drastically affect property values, aid board member Chris Cook.
Progress Energy expected opposition from Hillsborough. In a report dated Nov. 28-29, 2007, someone wrote, "TECO problems in Egypt Lake is going to make Hillsborough very sensitive," a reference to Tampa Electric Co.'s battle with that neighborhood four summers ago over 125-foot-tall steel power poles.
The report adds that an alternative had been found to "minimize community resistance."
Jacobs wouldn't say what the alternative was. In fact, she said the Progress Energy had nothing to do with the report, even though its logo and name are sprinkled throughout.
"It was a Utility Search Conference report," she said.