Thursday, July 25, 2013

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

Neighborhoods in Southeast Roanoke are rallying to oppose the application for rezoning property at 1745 Progress Street next to the Roanoke River in the 9th Street industrial park from light industrial to heavy industrial to accommodate a proposal for an Inergy LPG Transhipment Terminal. Besides the Southeast Action Form, Riverdale-Grandview, Kenwood and Morningside neighborhoods – other neighborhoods are coming to their defense.

Inergy LPG Transhipment Terminal

Example of Inergy LPG Transhipment Terminal

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.

Councilman Court Rosen said in an email circulated  among the neighbors that he “tended to agree with you all, and Dave [Trinkle] actually agreed, that it isn’t really the best location for this in the heart of the neighborhood. I have to be fair and keep an open mind until I read all the info but on the surface it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”

Councilman Ray Ferris in an email said “Public safety considerations are paramount. I need to know more about the details and I am sure I’ll have lots of questions.” Sherman Lea responded that he was noncommittal. Bill Bestpitch replied saying, “I will be sure to listen to both sides and ask for the facts I will need to decide what is best for the city.”

C. W. Francis Realtors CEO Will Trinkle, brother of Councilman Dave Trinkle, manages leasing at the industrial park known as IDICO (Industrial Development and Investment Co.) The property was subdivided into two parcels in May. The first indication that the Inergy Roanoke Rail Transhipment Terminal was in the works was in an email dated May 13 from Inergy with a photo of the site proposal pictured above.

Ian Shaw, Planning Administrator in an email response to Inergy said, “The future land use map from the applicable neighborhood plan identifies this area for heavy industrial use, so in that sense we (staff) would be supportive of a rezoning and special exception (ultimate decision making for these approvals rests with City Council and the BZA, respectively).”

The subdivided larger parcel was transferred to Roanoke Valley IDICO this week. Will Trinkle did not return calls for comment. Rosen in an email said he had talked to Councilman Dave Trinkle and said he would recuse himself from voting on the proposal though after the transfer Will Trinkle would have no connection.

According to the State Corporation Commission’s website Roanoke Valley IDICO Corp officers are James Turner (Construction) who serves as President, Dan Motley (Chairman. Industrial Development Manager, Norfolk Southern Corporation) is Vice President, Joyce Waugh (Roanoke Regional Chamber) serves as Treasurer, Michael Hertz (Woods, Rodger attorney) is Secretary and Robert Archer (Owner of Blue Ridge Beverage) is Director.

The Planning Commission was scheduled to take up the rezoning on August 13 but Inergy attorney Daniel Layman asked for a continuance until September 10 stating:

“This continuance will allow us to amend Inergy’s application to reflect both the new tax map number and the imminent change in ownership from Industrial Development and Investment Co. to Roanoke Valley IDICO Corp., as well as to better respond to any issues that have been developed in the course of the planning staff review of the application.”

The Planning Commission work session will go on as scheduled Friday July 26 with a trip to the property. Neighbors can watch from afar as they will not be permitted on the property.

The property is located close to Morningside Elementary School. All of the Southeast neighborhoods have serious concerns for safety and their property values. At their initial meeting on Sunday July 18 neighbors gathered and were upset that they had to read about the application for the Inergy LPG Transhipment Terminal in the newspaper rather than the city giving them a heads up as is the normal procedure.

The neighbors felt “insulted.” No one at the city understands the safety implications they said. They have been kept in the dark and are having to prod the city for information. Mark Powell, President of SEAF submitted a FOIA request to find out what was going  on and when all this had come about.

In the FOIA emails and documents the project was put on a “fast track” combining the rezoning with special use permit approval after the assistant city attorney Steve Talevi was consulted. Inergy also said that “With the time constraints we have, we will not be able to formally meet with everyone (neighborhoods).”

In FOIA documents a July 10 email Wayne Bower the director of economic development said that ” The rail to truck terminal proposed by Inergy Services is a compatible use for this currently under utilized industrial site. The Economic Development Department supports the proposed rezoning.”

Brian Townsend Assistant City manager warned that “in light of the train derailment in Quebec this week, you may get some questions/inquiries as to the ‘safety’ of such a facility in proximity to the Morningside neighborhood…I have NO idea regarding the flammability of propane/butane, etc. as compared with petroleum products as was the case in Quebec….but I believe staff should be prepared for inquiries from CPC members, the general public and the press….”

Inergy attorney Dan Layman said they were not in a position to proffer the concept/development plan at this point, as Inergy’s site designers have not even been on this property. Planning staff suggested a delay.

Inergy representatives will meet with neighbors at the property July 31. The work session will take place as usual July 26 and project/zoning approval will go before the Planning Commission September 10.

In another twist this same property was being negotiated for sale to be used for soccer fields – a much more compatible use for the neighborhood they said. An abrupt end of that negotiation occurred in December.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Community

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