Selectmen heard public comments regarding the proposed liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tank and terminal for Mack Point, including a request for an investigation into the origin of the amended height restriction language that paved the way for the applicant to make its pitch in Searsport.

The Board heard from several members of the public during its regular meeting at Union Hall Tuesday, March 5, with many comments relating to the proposal from Colorado-based DCP Midstream to construct a 22.7-million-gallon LPG storage tank in the town's industrial zone.

Resident Harlan McLaughlin said he felt there were "some holes showing" in some of the town's current procedures, which he said had been made apparent in the wake of the tank proposal.

One problem McLaughlin said he saw was a lack of accountability.

"Somebody has to say, 'If it happens in Searsport, I'm the person responsible,'" said McLaughlin.

He then read a letter he addressed to the Searsport Planning Board and to the Board of Selectmen requesting an investigation into the question regarding the change on the height restriction in the land use ordinance that was approved at the March 2011 town meeting.

At that time, according to Journal archives, the article asked voters to amend the ordinance to allow a 60-foot height restriction for principal structures and a 150-foot height limit for accessory structures, including cranes, bulk fuel storage tanks, silos and grain elevators. Voters approved the change by way of secret ballot by a margin of 79-66.

The changes to the land use ordinance were at the heart of a series of public information meetings held in late 2010 that took place because the company had announced its interest in coming to Searsport at that time.

If constructed, the tank would be 137 feet tall and measure 202 feet in diameter. The company did not have a formal application filed with the town at the time of the information meetings or the 2011 town meeting, in part because the ordinance, as it was formerly written, would have prohibited a structure of that height. The land use ordinance formerly allowed principal structures up to 60 feet in height, and accessory structures up to 125 feet in height.

McLaughlin recalled that residents were not permitted to discuss the height restriction in a way that was specific to the pending DCP application, because at the time the change was aimed at helping Sprague Energy to acquire a new crane that would have exceeded the former height restriction.

"Why were we not allowed to discuss it completely?" said McLaughlin. "… Why were we not apprised of DCP's involvement?"

McLaughlin also requested a written report outlining the findings of the investigation, and suggested any town officials who may have assisted the company in any way with getting the height restriction question before the voters be removed.

"Something happened somehow behind our backs," said McLaughlin.

McLaughlin said once the company representatives saw their project was not in line with the height restrictions in the ordinance, they recognized a need for the ordinance change before it was possible to make a pitch to the town.

"They couldn't do it without cooperation from the inside," he said. "… Something is wrong."

In a related matter, resident Peter Taber asked the Board about the status of the Maine Attorney General's Office investigation into the incident that involved the removal of Searsport resident Ben Crimaudo from one of the public hearings held on the proposal in November. According to Journal archives, Crimaudo was removed by way of police escort at the Nov. 28 hearing after police had warned Crimaudo several times to stop talking. According to an email from Ken Agabian of Thanks But No Tank, Crimaudo was in a discussion about Neal Frangesh of LGA Engineering, Searsport's independent consultant. On several occasions Frangesh began to answer questions posed to the representatives of the company, which Crimaudo objected to.

"What happened to Ben Crimaudo can happen to any one of us," said Taber.

Town Manager James Gillway said the investigation is still ongoing and that the town recently reached out to the Southwest Harbor Police Department for assistance with finishing the probe. Gillway said the police chief there has had experience with conducting this type of investigation, and estimated there was about 20 hours of work to be completed before the investigation can be wrapped up. Gillway estimated the investigation would be finished "within a couple of weeks.

Resident Joanne McNally expressed concern that the tank proposal was dividing the town largely because those who favor the project appear to do so because they expect DCP to provide good jobs to the area. McNally said, based on the job descriptions the company provided during last month's series of public hearings, it was unlikely that anyone from Searsport would qualify for the majority of those positions at the terminal.

Later in the meeting, McLaughlin suggested the town allow resident Tom Gocze to measure existing maps of Mack Point and, based on those measurements, design a sticker that would demonstrate the size and scope of the proposed tank. The sticker, said McLaughlin, could be added to an existing map and serve as a visual aid for those interested in knowing how the tank might change the landscape.

"We never did get our scale model," McLaughlin said.