SARANAC LAKE - A local fuel company is finally moving ahead with a more than three-year-old plan to relocate its fuel tanks from the Union Depot area to Van Buren Street, but the project is drawing opposition from a local watershed protection group.
Last month, HES Ventures submitted an application with the village Planning Board to move HomEnergy Services' fuel oil storage tanks from Depot Street to a wooded 0.81-acre parcel behind Kinney Drugs. The company also wants to add a 30,000-gallon propane storage tank to the property, which it acquired in a 2009 land swap with the village.
A public hearing on the project will be held tonight at 7 p.m. in the village offices on the second floor of the Harrietstown Town Hall.
When the land swap was first proposed, it drew strong objections from Van Buren Street residents who worried about the safety of the tanks and said they would reduce their property values. The Lake Colby Association also raised concerns about the potential for fuel oil leaking into a stream that flows into its namesake lake and called for a full environmental impact study.
LCA President Nancy Keet repeated those concerns in a Sept. 15 letter to the village Planning Board.
"Colby Creek drains the entire area along Van Buren Street into the lake, as was conclusively demonstrated by the sodium and chloride testing we did linking the village's (then) uncovered salt storage to incredibly high levels of these ions in the lake," Keet wrote. "Any spill, rupture or fire at the proposed facility could render the lake unsuitable for fishing, swimming, boating or general use for years and would expose the village to unimaginable liabilities."
Keet again requested a full environmental review if the project moves forward.
Dan Reilly of HES Ventures didn't return several messages over the past week-and-a-half seeking comment on the project.
Village Community Development Director Jeremy Evans said Monday that the Planning Board has asked for information about the state Department of Environmental Conservation permitting process for a fuel oil storage facility of the size proposed by HES Ventures.
DEC spokesman David Winchell told the Enterprise HES Ventures doesn't need a permit from the agency, but it does need to register any fuel storage tanks "prior to becoming operational, which means prior to placing any fuel in the tank."
Above-ground fuel oil storage tanks are governed by a section of state Environmental Conservation Law titled "Control of the Bulk Storage of Petroleum." The law, according to the DEC website, requires above-ground tanks to have secondary containment like a berm or other structure to contain spills.
In Evans' staff report to the Planning Board, he noted that HES Ventures is planning a concrete confinement area where the tanks would be located. The containment area would be covered by a 40-foot by 65-foot pole barn.
"The site, which is adjacent to the village DPW property and nearby additional fuel storage facilities, and which was previously used for manufacturing, is appropriate for the proposed use," Evans wrote. "However there are residential uses across the street and the potential negative effects of the proposed used should be mitigated as much as possible."
HES Ventures' application notes that four other fuel storage facilities are located nearby. The company says it plans to keep as much existing vegetation on the site as possible and will put a cedar hedge along Van Buren Street to screen the fuel tanks. Evans has also recommended a vegetative buffer on the Kinney Drugs side of the property.
Evans also asked the company about stormwater runoff. In an emailed response, Jerry Michael of HES Ventures said the site is lower than the surrounding properties, and after grading is completed, "it will be physically impossible to have runoff onto the neighboring properties."
Among other details of the project, HES Ventures says trucks will use the property primarily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. There will be about 10 to 20 trips per day. A 6-foot chain-link fence is also planned around the site.
Depot Street plan
HES Ventures initially wanted to move its fuel storage tanks to Van Buren Street as part of a plan to build a 12,000-square-foot shopping complex with apartments upstairs on the site of what is now several old warehouse buildings on Depot Street. The village and HES received a $550,000 state grant for the project in January 2008. The money was to be used to tear down the warehouses and prepare the site for development.
In May of 2010, Reilly told the Enterprise that that bigger project still exists but had taken a back seat because of the economy, the lack of a firm commitment from potential tenants and his company's focus on building an addition to the Branch and Callanan building on Depot Street to house an outpatient Veterans Administration health clinic.
"We still have been communicating back and forth about the grant and the big project," Evans said Tuesday. "Times have charged in four years since that was originally proposed. We're still discussing that and seeing what will and won't work."
Evans said the grant is still "hanging on," but he expects that at some point the state will send the village a letter saying it may forfeit the money because there's been no movement on the project.
"I know that's coming," Evans said.
Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.