SARANAC LAKE - The village Planning Board put off a decision on HES Ventures' plan to move its fuel storage tanks to Van Buren Street at its meeting Wednesday night.
The move came after a public hearing that drew concerns from neighbors about increased truck traffic and bad smells from the proposed facility, plus fears about potential environmental contamination into Lake Colby. The board voted to continue the public hearing at its next meeting in October.
HES Ventures wants to move a half-dozen HomEnergy Services fuel storage tanks, ranging in size from 3,000 to 12,000 gallons, from its property on Depot Street to a 0.81-acre parcel on Van Buren Street, behind Kinney Drugs, that the company acquired in a 2009 land swap with the village. The company also plans to add a new, 30,000-gallon propane storage tank to the Van Buren Street property.
Dan Reilly of HES Ventures describes his company’s plan to relocate the HomEnergy Services fuel storage tanks from Depot Street to Van Buren Street at Wednesday night’s Saranac Lake Planning Board meeting.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
Asked by Planning Board Chairwoman Leslie Karasin about the motivation for the move, Dan Reilly of HES Ventures said it would allow the company to further develop its Depot Street property.
"By removing the tanks and getting them onto Van Buren Street, it opens up that section of downtown to development that is more cohesive with the village or more conducive to downtown life than having that sort of industrial site in the village," Reilly said.
Four years ago, the village and HES Ventures were awarded a $550,000 state grant to redevelop the company's Depot Street property, but Reilly said the project was pushed back largely due to the economic downturn. He said the tanks would be relocated regardless of what happens with the grant.
Reilly outlined the details of the Van Buren Street project during an hour-long question-and-answer session with the board. He said the fuel tanks would be at the back of the property to shield them from view of the homes on the street. A hedgerow is also planned along the road to screen the operation, and most of the trees currently on the site would remain, Reilly said.
Just as they are now on Depot Street, the fuel tanks would sit in a concrete containment area, as required by state Department of Environmental Conservation regulations.
"The concrete wall is designed to contain 110 percent of the largest tank in the event of some catastrophe," Reilly said. "We've never had a catastrophe. We've never had a release to water in 18 years."
Reilly said traffic to and from the site would be "very low," between 10 and 20 trips per day during the work week and four to 10 trips a week outside normal working hours. At most, there would be two to five tanker truck deliveries of fuel a week.
During the public hearing, Van Buren Street resident Tara Smith said she appreciated the effort to screen the fuel storage tanks, but raised concerns about "the increased truck load that would be going up and down that street," which she said already sees a lot of truck traffic associated with the village garage.
Another neighbor said she's experienced bad smells coming from the propane tanks owned by other fuel companies in the same area.
Reilly acknowledged that gas would be released when a delivery truck disconnects from the propane tank, but he said the odor would only be detected for a few minutes before it dissipates.
Some of the toughest criticism of the project came from Lee Keet of the Lake Colby Association. He said he supports the idea of redeveloping the Depot Street area, but he was concerned about potential environmental contamination in the Lake Colby watershed.
"You might say, well, 'We've got a containment dike, nothing bad is going to happen,'" Keet said. "Exxon Valdez doesn't happen. BP spills in the Gulf don't happen. All we need is one of those tanker trucks to slip on the ice in the winter, turn over and spill, and you have just destroyed the Lake Colby watershed. At the 30,000-foot level, this is, in my mind, an idiotic proposal."
Karasin said she understands the fragility of the Lake Colby watershed, but she noted that, "every single inch of this community is in a watershed or another."
Reilly said there are five other fuel storage facilities in the same area that are similar in size to what HES Ventures is proposing. They're owned by Suburban Propane, Big D Fuel, Griffith Energy, the village and Verizon.
"I'm not saying disasters don't occur; I'm just saying that you've got all these storage facilities here that haven't contributed any petroleum product thus far to Lake Colby," Reilly said. "I wouldn't want to see Lake Colby filled with petroleum products, and I would make every effort to make sure that wouldn't happen."
Reilly also said a tanker truck would have to be traveling "at a pretty good clip" to tear open and spill its contents, something he said is unlikely on a residential street like Van Buren.
The board decided to adjourn the public hearing amid questions about whether another agency, potentially DEC, would assume lead agency status in determining the project's potential environmental impact under the State Environmental Quality Review Act. The 30-day window for other agencies to claim that status has yet to expire. Keet said he believes DEC would be the appropriate agency to conduct the environmental review and suggested the board ask the agency to do so.
The board's next meeting is 7 p.m. Oct. 17 in the village offices on the second floor of the Harrietstown Town Hall.
Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.