— by Margie Doyle, updated June 17 at 4:30 p.m. —
County officials are considering the application for InterIsland Propane to place a 30,000-gallon propane tank and distribution center on a lot just west of the airport, adjacent to residential homes on Seaview Street and within 300 feet of Opal Commons Community Garden and the Opal Commons neighborhood.
Proposed development notices were sent to nearby homeowners in late May, and comments are due to County Planner Julie Thompson at JulietT@sanjuanco.com by Wednesday, June 21. A hearing is scheduled before the Hearing Examiner on July 13.
The project application (PCUP00-17-0018) is for lot 27115801127 at 27 Aeroview Lane, at the corner of Seaview Street and Aeroview Lane. Don Galt, co-owner of InterIsland Propane, wrote in its application to the county for the conditional use permit that, in addition to the storage tank, the project includes a 12×80 concrete slab, consumer-sized propane tanks, and parking for trucks used to transport propane and customer tanks within an enclosed 120x120ft fence. Underground electric power and a security light will also be provided to the area.
The lot is zoned Service/Light Industrial and propane storage is an allowable use within that zoning. The Hearing Examiner can decide that the permit be allowed, provided certain conditions are met if such conditions are deemed reasonable by the Hearing Examiner.
Mitigation measures that may be considered by the Hearing Examiner include safety, aesthetic and traffic concerns. Questions remain about neighborhood safety in the event of a leak or explosion, capacity of response, and availability of water to extinguish a fire, particularly in light of two incidents of fuel leaks at a now-defunct storage facility further north on Seaview Street last year. .
“Propane is a flammable and explosive fuel” Galt writes, and “Fire Department and emergency vehicles would be needed to put out a fire and to administer aid to people injured.” However, the environmental checklist submitted to the county state that the propane storage and distribution center would not “result in an increased need for public services (for example: fire protection…)”
Traffic concerns are also raised as Aeroview Lane is a narrow approach to the west airport gate, and plans are for delivery trucks to operate between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Their size, the frequency of their approach to and departure from the lot into a rural residential neighborhood are questioned. The truck delivery route is not specified on the application.
Aesthetic environmental and noise concerns also surface as the proposed siting for the tank would be screened on the north and west sides by existing growth, but there is no screening planned in the application for the south lot line which faces Aeroview Lane. Galt wrote in his SEPA applications, ” “If there are any areas that required more screening by the county we will be planting more trees and buses along the north and west lot lines. However, we don’t anticipate having to add any more vegetation as there is already a significant natural buffer.”
The application further states that no views in the immediate vicinity would be altered and that there are no measures proposed to reduce or control aesthetic impacts.
Some mitigation measures could be:
- installing a natural berm or retaining wall around the tank site, which would divert heat from getting to the tank in the event of airplane fuel igniting in the airport hangars to the east of the site;
- limiting the hours of the trucks making deliveries through the neighborhood;
- planting additional screening vegetation to the south and to the east;
- planning truck access and egress to limit noise, traffic and disruption to the rural residential neighborhood.
County Fire Marshall RJ Meyers declined to comment on the conditional use permit application beyond saying, “We are looking at options for that community.”
Once the storage and distribution center is developed, the propane in storage will be delivered to the island by barge, transported to the site by truck and then delivered to InterIsland customers by truck. Galt estimates a barge delivery every two weeks during the peak winter season; with delivery truck operated Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In related news, just last week, the county installed a 30,000-gallon tank at its Public Works installation off Mount Baker Road near Seaview Street. This tank holds both diesel/gasoline, which are to be used in the event of an emergency to fuel generators and to supply fuel for emergency response vehicles.