Tank could have negative effect on property values, tourism, says expertOpponents question zoning of admin. building
Searsport — Searsport residents and businesses could face a decline in property values, depending on their proximity to a proposed 22.7-million-gallon liquid propane gas (LPG) storage tank to be located at Mack Point, said a consultant hired by the town of Searsport.
Nancy Fannon of consulting firm Meyers, Harrison and Pia, LLC, presented her report at the third night of public hearings Wednesday, Nov. 28, on the application by DCP Searsport LLC to construct the large LPG tank.
Fannon's report relied on dozens of studies done on other large-scale industrial sites like landfills, wind farms and oil and gas storage facilities, as well as interviews with town employees.
The report found a correlation between the proximity of a property to an industrial site similar to the proposed tank and a decline in property value. A similar correlation was found for tourism-related businesses. Fannon noted that since the proposed tank was in an industrial zone that already contained a number of tanks, the effects would be incremental.
However, under questioning from Thanks But No Tank attorney Steve Hinchman, Fannon acknowledged — because of the 138-foot height of the tank and its visibility from Route 1 — it would have a greater incremental effect than a tank on the same scale as the ones currently in use at Mack Point. Those tanks are in the 40- to 60-foot range.
The effect on property values in the various studies ranged from a modest decline of 4 percent to as much as 40 percent, but Fannon said that there seemed to be biased results based on who commissioned the study — groups in favor of the projects produced more favorable results, while opponents showed more negative impacts.
"You can basically make these studies say anything you want them to, based on how they are designed," Fannon said.
One business that will be particularly affected by the construction of the tank is Angler's Restaurant and Bait's Motel, owned by Buddy Hall, who was represented at the meeting by Ed Bearer. The two businesses would be within 500 feet of the proposed tank site.
An assessor's review of the commercial and property value of the two businesses showed that they were worth around $900,000 together and would lose between 80 and 85 percent of their value were the tank constructed.
Fannon also spoke with several Searsport town department heads and concluded that the municipal services budget would not increase substantially. The only department that reported a possible increase was the Police Department, which could need two additional officers at a cost of $55,000 each per year.
Hinchman disputed this claim, asking whether Fannon had done any independent research or fact-checking of the statements by town officials on their expected costs. Fannon said her report simply used the numbers provided by the town employees she spoke with.
Fannon's report said that the tank could drop the mill rate by around $2 — from $19.80 to $17.95 — but that when other declines in property value and increased costs to the town were factored in, the mil rate would be around $18.60.
Commercial or industrial?
Tank opponents also questioned the use of an administration building located on a commercially zoned piece of the DCP property. The opponents contended that under the zoning ordinance the administration building could not be involved with operations for the tank, which is in an industrial zoned area.
DCP representatives testified that the building housed a control room that monitored the tank and could be used to remotely shut down valves in an emergency. The pipeline that connects the tank to the dock where fuel supply ships would offload the liquid propane gas also crosses the property. Hinchman noted that a driveway to the tank could be used as a staging area for fuel trucks waiting to fill up with the liquid propane.
Toward the end of the meeting Bearer asked the DCP representatives if they would concede that the property did not meet the zoning guidelines for a commercial property, which they would not.
The public hearing is expected to continue Thursday and Friday nights starting at 6 p.m. at Searsport High School. The board is also planning an additional public hearing in January.