DCP withdraws tank application, no plans to reapplyBoard finds tank proposal unsafe, too noisy
Searsport — DCP spokeswoman Roz Elliott announced Tuesday, April 2, that the company's application that was undergoing review by the Searsport Planning Board has officially been withdrawn. Elliott released a statement on behalf of DCP announcing the company would not continue to pursue its plan to construct a 22.7 million gallon LPG tank.
"We don’t see it necessary to continue the path forward with the Planning Board deliberations and we will be notifying the Planning Board by letter," Elliott stated. "We thank our hundreds of supporters within Searsport. We have spoken with many already to share our appreciation."
Elliott said that the company has no plans to submit a new or altered proposal for a Liquid Petroleum Gas tank in Maine.
"The hard part is we received federal and state approvals," Elliot said in a telephone interview with the Journal. "With the current local circumstances we don't foresee doing any capital investment in Maine."
Ken Agabian of "Thanks, But No Tank" said he is "stunned" and "extremely happy" by the news that DCP withdrew its application. However, Agabian said he needs to consult with TBNT's legal team to determine the next steps, as the group still has pending lawsuits regarding the project.
Searsport Planning Board Chairman Bruce Probert said the board is still waiting for an official letter from DCP's attorney stating the application has been withdrawn. He said the board will still meet Wednesday, April 3, at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the application and "wrap things up."
March 28 deliberations
The Searsport Planning Board began deliberation of DCP's tank proposal on March 27 and continued March 28 as the members resumed assessing whether the application meets the standards for the town’s land use ordinance.
Deliberations began on March 28 with Board members assessing whether DCP’s tank application met the standards for minimum lot size for commercial and industrial zones, property setback lines and road frontage. Board members voted 5-0 that those standards were met.
However, Board members raised concerns about a number of the other standards, including whether the project is in conformity with the town’s comprehensive plan.
Board member Mark Bradstreet questioned whether two votes could be taken on the issue: one vote for whether the project meets the standard for complying with the comprehensive plan in the commercial zone and a separate vote for whether it meets the standard in the industrial zone.
The motion to vote on each zone separately was approved before a motion was made that the application does not meet the standard for the commercial zone. Board members noted that there are industrial uses — administrative office building, access road, fire water tank and pump — sited within the commercial zone.
A motion stating that the application did not comply with the town’s comprehensive plan for the commercial zone was approved by a vote of 5-0.
The motion that the project does comply with the town’s comprehensive plan within the industrial zone was approved by a vote of 5-0.
Two issues were raised under performance standards regarding vibration and noise.
Under the land use ordinance, with the exception of vibration occurring during the construction or demolition of a building, vibration is required not to be transmitted outside the lot where it originates.
As discussion began regarding whether there would be an issue of vibration being transmitted off the property, Board members questioned how to assess any potential impact. Without a study from the town, Board members said they would have to rely on DCP’s application, which states that there will be no vibration transmitted outside the lot, in order to rule on whether the application met the standard.
The Board eventually voted 5-0 that the standard was met before tackling the issue of “offensive noise.”
The land use ordinance states that no offensive noise will be transmitted beyond lot lines that would cause an unreasonable disturbance to neighboring residential properties.
The issue of unreasonable noise was questioned by Board members, who asked how to define what “unreasonable” would mean.
Collins explained that unreasonable noise could be considered noise that would result in complaints from neighbors; at which point Bradstreet pointed out that trucks waiting in the queue line at the facility could disturb neighbors.
Board member Brian Callahan made a motion that the application did not meet the noise standard, citing the fact that he did not feel there was adequate buffering, especially where trucks would queue up, to mitigate noise.
He suggested the most effective barrier to mitigate noise would be to build a fence similar to the ones used on highways to reduce vehicle noise to nearby neighborhoods. However, Callahan was not in favor of such a fence, saying they “look like hell.”
Board member George Kerper and Probert added that there were other noise issues to consider with the project in regard to use of the flare and whether the facility doors would be open in the summer, which could generate additional noise. It was also noted that weather conditions, like wind, could carry noise to nearby residences.
The Board eventually passed a motion that the noise standard was not met, based on concerns regarding truck noise, the flare, noise from the facility, weather conditions and the fact that a buffer cannot be put across the facility access road to mitigate any noise.
That motion passed by a vote of 5-0.
The final portion of the application the Board found objectionable Thursday was whether the project would result in unsafe or unhealthful conditions. Safety has consistently been an issue raised by Board members and the general public throughout the course of the public hearings held on the project.
While Bradstreet acknowledged the application meets the technical standards of the land use ordinance, he said the project is unsafe because it is too close to residences.
Probert agreed and said he was concerned with the blast zone radius if the tank were to ignite, and that while the risk of a catastrophic event occurring was low, the “consequence is tremendously high.”
Board members approved a motion that the application does not meet the standard for not creating unsafe and unhealthful conditions by a vote of 5-0.
Following the meeting, DCP spokeswoman Roz Elliott said in an email to The Republican Journal that the company was “disappointed” by the Board’s initial rulings, but would wait for the deliberations to conclude.
“We will await the remainder of the deliberations and then evaluate our options,” Elliott said in the email.
Members of the opposition group “Thanks, But No Tank,” were pleased with the outcome of Thursday night’s deliberations, stating in a press release, “unlike questions of zoning, nothing can be done at any town meeting (or anywhere else) that can change these findings on noise and [safety] and unhealthful standards. This is all good news, in fact virtually unthinkable at the beginning of the week.”
The Planning Board deliberations will continue Wednesday, April 3, at 6:30 p.m. at Union Hall in Searsport.
March 27 deliberations
In the first night of Planning Board deliberations aimed at deciding whether to deny or approve an application for a 22.7-million-gallon liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) storage tank at Mack Point, the proposed project hit a snag.
Just before the Searsport Planning Board wrapped up its deliberations Wednesday night, March 27, the Board took two votes in relation to how the proposal from Colorado-based DCP Midstream met the town Land Use Ordinance. The Board made two unanimous decisions — one stating that the buildings and structures proposed for the industrial zone were permitted uses under the ordinance, and another stating that portions of the project proposed for the neighboring commercial district were not.
Members of the audience appeared stunned by the finding — Searsport resident David Italiaander was one of them.
"They just voted this down," he said.
But earlier in the deliberations, Searsport Planning Board attorney Kristin Collins said even if the Board finds reason to deny the application at any point in the process, it must still complete the entire deliberation process.
"It could be overturned," said Collins.
Planning Board Member Lee Ann Horowitz expressed concern that the Board might not be qualified to make a decision on such an involved proposal that has included briefs and testimony from attorneys for the applicant and project opponents which offer the Board very different interpretations of the project as it relates to town ordinances.
"I think this is way out of our league," Horowitz said. Horowitz went on to be the one vote against the motion stating that the Board has jurisdiction to consider the project.
"This is going to get challenged further," said Planning Board Chairman Bruce Probert.
"You've got to take a stab at it, so someone else can tell us we're wrong," said Collins.
After the Board votes on the rest of the standards set forth in the town’s land use ordinance, it will move on to consider the merits of the project, based on specifications in the site planning and shoreland zoning ordinances, Probert said. The final decision to either approve or deny the application will be based on the consideration of those ordinances, as well as the 18 performance standards the Board must consider as they relate to the proposal, which address every aspect of the project, from its impacts on air quality and preserving and enhancing the landscape to lighting and visual buffering.
The first 90 minutes of the deliberations included oral arguments from interested parties, including James Kilbreth, attorney for DCP Midstream, Steve Hinchman, attorney for the opposition group Thanks But No Tank, Italiaander, who spoke about the market conditions for propane and suggested the project would likely be used as an export facility, and Ed Bearor, attorney for Angler's Restaurant.