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The sacred vs. the propane

The author’s proposed alternative sites for a bulk propane tank are numbered 1, 2 and 3 on this map.

Recently proposed to the Lake Placid-North Elba Joint Review Board by the Hurley Brothers, a local fuels dealer, is to convert an acre atop Vitvitsky Hill, the highest hill between the AuSable and Chubb rivers on Old Military Road, into a tank farm for LPG, liquefied propane gas, for unloading huge tankers and reloading LPG into delivery trucks.

Nine reasons why the JRB ought to oppose this

Beyond doubt this proposal is one of the worst ideas ever brought before the JRB, and it ought to have been summarily dismissed:

1. There is no such “conditional use” specified, and thus available to be permitted by the JRB, in the 2011 LP-NE code as it pertains to the so-called Old Military Corridor District. Hence, such a use as is proposed by Hurley Brothers is illegal. 

2. No safe entry and exit from this site by large trucks routinely and recurrently visiting said site is possible without taking extraordinary and egregious measures to reconstruct Old Military Road into a “modern” highway that would be substantially regraded, substantially widened and likely divided by concrete “Jersey” safety barriers to prevent said trucks from entering or leaving said site with other than right-hand turns.

3. The entire length of Old Military Road going east to the AuSable and going west to the Chubb has no remotely comparable industrial activity. The entirety of this section of Old Military Road is in one of three uses:

a) residential, mostly single-family homes

b) human-services enterprises and undertakings that deal with health, education, fitness, emergency medical care, comfort, kindness, and the respectful burial and remembrance of the dead of all faiths, creeds, colors, fame and family wealth

c) a few tourist lodging facilities of the B&B type, including the historic Stage Coach Inn.

4. The land for Hurley’s proposed LPG tank farm is the historical Lot 93 of Thorn’s Survey. This great lot is connected to the great abolitionist John Brown. It was first settled, cleared, farmed by some of the free Negro families brought hither by the abolitionist-humanitarian Gerrit Smith (the Freedom Party’s presidential candidate in 1856).

5. Hurley’s proposed tank farm impinges on the Old White Church (the first Baptist/Methodist “Union Church” of North Elba, built in 1875). It was moved to its present location between the cemeteries when the Olympic Training Center was built so that its worshippers of Christ could enjoy quietude and solitude, and keep alive forever the memory and history of North Elba 19th-century stalwarts for the Union, freedom for all and equality of all.

6. Hurleys’ proposal includes recurrent noisy, smelly, gaseous unloading and reloading of LPG that would make it impossible for the Jewish community to bury and remember their dead at the Jewish cemetery.

7. A nearby LPG tank farm would substantially devalue all residential properties within its “blast zone,” with those closest and in view and in smell and in hearing range of the site suffering the most, especially devaluing the Balsams subdivision, so recently approved by the JRB. It’s an unfair “taking” of property without due process of law.

8. The “arterial highway” Old Military Road has evolved over the past 60 years from a mere country lane to a sort of substandard superhighway serving commuters who cannot afford Lake Placid’s high rents and home prices. A “risk assessment” of the Hurley action before the Joint Review Board, commissioned by Concerned Citizens to Protect Lake Placid, cites traffic statistics for the eastern section of Old Military Road from a recent New York State Department of Transportation report. During the two rush hours, Old Military Road carries more than 450 vehicles per hour. Traffic is light only from midnight to 6 a.m. Old Military Road carries more than 4,500 vehicles per day — one every eight seconds, average, during rush hours. Direct observation this May records a mix of 42% trucks and 18% heavy trucks and buses. Such vehicles need much greater line of sight to avoid accidents, and Vitvitsky Hill notoriously lacks this safety factor. It is a “blind hill.” On peak, since vehicles tend to clump together into pelotons, personal observation has recorded pelotons of 10 or more vehicles whizzing by at intervals of three seconds or less. Cats loose on this hill have no nine lives.

Entering and exiting heavy LPG tanker trucks would have to swing into the opposing traffic lane at slow speed. Like “sitting ducks.” Sheer folly.

9. We depend on tourism. Tourists seeing, hearing and smelling a non-industrial environs. The proposed tank farm would be visible from atop many mountains–perhaps from Moose to McIntyre.

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What ought to happen

A. The highest and best use of the Vitvitsky property would be as a public park, playground for children, historical interpretive site — a park named “Gerrit Smith’s Black Lives Matter Memorial Park.”

B. The town of North Elba ought to offer a lease-land site for LPG transfer station to Hurleys. Where? Outta sight and outta mind. Three sites are promising:

#1 site is just below the village sand pit and is technically part of the North Elba Show Grounds. The southeast corner of this lot is a “slough” cut off by more than 500 feet from the AuSable, which carved it ages ago. The proposed LPG site being only about 200 feet below said sand pit entry, and about 500 feet from the river, and view is blocked from New York Route 73 by the “berm” created years ago when Old Military Road ran straight down to the erstwhile Ski-Tee Bridge.

#2 site is off the road into the town transfer station, Recycle Circle. On its left is a swale just west of the landfill’s containment berm. This berm runs north, then east toward the confluence of the Chubb River and McKenzie Brook. The waste water treatment plant is on its north bank. Currently, the proposed truck road is used by local teens who sport about these environs riding ATVs. The site is on a 69-acre parcel acquired from Mrs. Jones’ foundation.

#3 site is also on this 69-acre riverfront lot but further to the east-southeast. It would be accessed from the area between the town transfer station and the Lake Placid Airport. The only other use foreseeable for this parcel is for a stream-front trail to connect the village of Lake Placid with the area of public lands at John Brown’s Farm and beyond.

See attached map for approximate location of #0 (Hurley’s propane proposal), #1, #2 and #3.

Anthony G. Lawrence lives in Lake Placid.