Friday, August 2, 2013

Roanoke’s Southeast neighborhood fuming over propane terminal

City Planner Katherine Gray and Director of Planning Chris Chittum explain the zoning process and take questions.

City Planner Katherine Gray and Director of Planning Chris Chittum explain the zoning process and take questions.

A video projection on a big screen showing exploding propane terminal sites greeted the 60 plus residents that filed into the Jackson Park Library Thursday evening. To add to that another explosion of propane tanks took place in Florida just a few days ago. Human error was suspected with that one.

At the Southeast Action Forum meeting, members and alarmed residents say it would be “human error” to consider placing the terminal at the 9th Street Industrial Park located near Morningside Elementary School. It is just too close to their homes.

Petitions are circulating and flyers are flying and neighborhoods are uniting. “It’s the biggest turnout they’ve had since the Rescue Mission project (expansion),” said Cindy Turner.

Propane and butane would be offloaded from adjacent rail tank cars to onsite tanks. Three tanks will hold 60,000 gallons of propane and two will hold 90,000 gallon tanks of butane with generally ten 30,000 gallons capacity rail cars onsite at any one time. Two trucks an hour would fill up at the site carrying propane to customers.

Should an explosion occur or even just a leakage Southeast residents fear a mass evacuation would take place in the densely populated Southeast quadrant. They also fear a drop in property values and increase in their homeowners insurance premiums. Movement of so many flammable trucks through densely populated areas spreads the risk out beyond Southeast via accident or equipment failure.

Planning Department staff explained the zoning approval process and told them how they could write, email and call them with their concerns. All communication will be compiled in a packet for the Planning Commission prior to a vote at the September 10th meeting.

Thursday evenings SEAF meeting.

About 60 Southeast neighbors attended Thursday evenings SEAF meeting.

Everyone is welcome to observe the Planning Commission work session though comments will not be allowed said city planner, Katherine Gray. The next work session will be on August 23 prior to their meeting and vote on September 10th. It then goes before city council on the 16th.

Gray said they received the Inergy rezoning application that requests that the property be rezoned from light industrial to heavy industrial in July. But Mark Powell, president of SEAF reminded her that the Inergy propane terminal has been in the works since April as gleaned from his Freedom of Information response. The point Powell and Ron McCorkle were making is “why weren’t we notified sooner.” They learned of the application in the newspaper.

“Your voice counts,” Gray told them but with the caveat that the neighborhood plan for Southeast says “industrial” was an acceptable land use for the property. It doesn’t say what kind though she said. The Inergy propane/butane terminal would require a special use permit from the Board of Zoning appeals.

Rick Williams, former Planning Commission member feared it would be just like the Huff Lane Elementary school where the neighborhood lost to hotels adjacent to Valley View instead of something more “neighborly.”

Gray listed the permissible uses that would be added for heavy industrial zoning versus light industrial as one member asked. Those uses include things like utility generation, a railroad freight yard, fuel oil distribution and a steel mill.

Southeast resident Laura Padgett said, “we don’t want the parcel rezoned to heavy industrial period.”

Ronnie Campbell, Roanoke Deputy Fire Marshal in an email named off a list of conditions he would be looking for to pass the safety muster: tank sizes, total amount of product, distance to property lines, distance to roads, distance to buildings, water supply for fire hydrants, security fencing, any type of fire protection and grounding and bonding.

Director of planning, Chris Chittum in response to a question from Ron McCorkle admitted they don’t know much about propane terminals. “We’re not familiar with this type of project,” he said. “We’re making an informed land use decision.”

Several members met with Inergy Vice President of Eastern Supply and Marketing, James A. Ronald Wednesday. A proposal to relocate the terminal on the property closer to 13th Street is being considered. Other than that Duane Howard said they didn’t get much specifics.

Powell said he met with city manager, Chris Morrill who conveyed to him that the terminal would not be of particular economic value to the city and would be exempt from state and federal taxes.

Neighborhood plans are updated every 10 years but Southeast and other neighborhood plans are over 10 years old. There is no funding said one planner on the QT – the department has half the staff it use to have.

A vote was taken first by SEAF members only which totaled 18 and then by all present that they oppose the rezoning to heavy industrial and oppose changing it for any other projects in the future.

Southeast City neighborhoods rally to oppose Inergy propane/butane terminal – Councilman against it

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Community

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Comments (2)

E. Duane Howard

August 3rd, 2013 at 8:20 AM    


Thanks Valerie for helping to keep all informed. I particular like your open line discription in using the word “Fuming” and even that is understated.

Just for the record, Cindy Turner’s comment was not factually correct. We never had a standing room only crowd of all the meetings we held concerning the rescue mission expansion. He has been many years since we’ve had this kind of turn out. This would go back to the days when we met in the old fire house, which was a much smaller facility.

Heather Brush

August 3rd, 2013 at 9:29 AM    


I add my thanks to Duane’s, Valerie! I want to express my gratitude for any attention to the unification of SE’s residents. I was part of those meetings regarding the Rescue Mission expansion in the old firehouse and voiced my support of the same to City Council as vice president of our neighborhood watch in SE. I tried to gather neighborhood non profits, churches and residents back in those days, 1997-98-99, to break ground on a community garden in Fallon park (still would be an awesome project Roanoke City!) and failed, but I was thankful for the attention of Joe Kennedy at the Roanoke Times in support. (Hat’s off to Mark Powell for accomplishing similar efforts) Today, social media and local media working together can help the citizens to unify their voices. Use it! And be heard.

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