September 12, 2018 [Riverhead Local] - Riverhead officials have reached agreement with United Riverhead Terminal to allow the company to install six tanks to store biofuel at its Northville facility.
The company says it needs the storage tanks at the facility to comply with a state law requiring heating oil wholesalers to sell heating oil blended with 5-percent biofuel as of July 1.
United Riverhead Terminal has been buying already-blended product, company officials told town board members during a town board work session Thursday. It’s not economical and, since the company can’t blend on-site, it is limited in the types of blends it can offer its customers, United Riverhead Terminal president John McConville said.
The proposal to build the new tanks drew intense community opposition at a town board public hearing in June from residents opposed to expansion of the existing facilities at the 286-acre waterfront site. Northville Industries built the oil storage and distribution facility and offshore platform in the 1950s and 1960s, prior to the adoption of a zoning ordinance in the Town of Riverhead.
The site was subsequently zoned for residential uses; under law, the property owner has the right to continue its existing operation, despite the new zoning, as a pre-existing, nonconforming use. Any expansion of a pre-existing, nonconforming use requires a special permit from the town board.
Residents objected to the application statement stated the biofuel would be mixed with heating oil “and other products.” They also objected to the inclusion of diesel fuel in the application. They also expressed concerns about the potential for increased truck traffic to and from the site. Some argued that blending fuels at the site is a new use, not an expansion of an existing use. Others expressed concern that United Riverhead Terminal would reassert its previous application to construct storage tanks for ethanol at the site. The company in 2014 had sought approval for the construction of two 19,000-gallon tanks to store ethanol at the site, which the company said it intended to use for gasoline it planned to begin storing at distributing from the site. After massive community opposition URT withdrew that application.
United Riverhead Terminal has agreed to covenants to address all of the concerns raised by the community, its consultant Victor Prusinowski told the board.
“Under no circumstances will there be ethanol stored there. If the law changes, we will tear down the tanks. No motor fuel will be mixed there. We’ve agreed to it all,” Prusinowski said.
The highway department is going to improve the intersection of Penny’s and Sound Avenue so that tanker trucks will be able to negotiate the turn without entering the oncoming lane of traffic, Prusinowski said. A gas meter installed within the right of way at the intersection will first have to be relocated. It will be moved at the company’s expense, Prusinowski said.
Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith asked company officials to consider building a new road directly from the facility to Sound Avenue over property United Riverhead Terminal owns. The property is currently in active agriculture.
Councilman James Wooten objected to the idea of building a road through a farm field and said that a new access point on Sound Avenue doesn’t make sense. Councilwoman Jodi Giglio agreed.
Wooten said he did not want to see the town hold up the permit for the biofuel tanks for environmental considerations.
“I have a young daughter who’s being raised in this world,” Wooten said. “I’m more interested in reducing the carbon footprint.”
Jens-Smith said she understands the environmental concerns but also wants to take the community concerns into account.
“It is an issue. It is a problem as it exists,” Jens-Smith said. “I’d really like you to consider some alternative. I undertand you’re not looking to stagnate your business with the number of trucks coming in and out, that you’re always looking to expand and to increase your revenue, and in doing so I think the considerations of the community should be taken into account.”
URT vice chairman Nelson Happy said the company does take the community’s concerns into account and a better access to the site would make trucking more efficient too.
“It’s a real safety concern,” Giglio said.
McConville said the company would look into the feasibility of an alternative access road. He noted that there are existing drainage issues in the area that also need to be taken into account.
Board members agreed to proceed with a conditional approval of the permit, with the conditions required to be fulfilled prior to the issuance of a certificate of occupancy.
After the town board approves the special permit, URT will still need to get site plan approval from the planning board, Riverhead building and planning administrator Jefferson Murphree said.
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