Propane tank permit postponed

Inter-Island Propane’s request to install a 30,000-gallon propane storage tank in an Eastsound neighborhood has been postponed until a list of questions are addressed by county agencies.

On Aug. 21, San Juan County Hearing Examiner Sharon Rice remanded (halted) Inter-Island Propane’s conditional use permit request to put in a tank on property at the corner of Seaview Street and Aeroview Lane.

It’s been a contentious process from the start with more than 30 letters submitted to the hearing examiner from residents in the neighborhood. They’ve cited concerns of increased traffic, a leak or a possible explosion. The permit request, filed on May 31, first went before the hearing examiner on July 13.

During the July 13 hearing, Rice said that San Juan County had until July 27 to respond in writing to the public comments. Galt requested to have the option to respond, and he had until July 31. On Aug. 14, Rice extended the response period out one week.

On Aug. 21, Rice gave Inter-Island, San Juan County and Orcas Fire and Rescue until Sept. 18 to submit requested revisions. A final determination on the permit will be made by Oct. 2.

“I think the hearing examiner and county has put a lot of time and hard work into this proposal,” said Inter-Island Propane co-owner Donny Galt. “After listening and reading the additional comments and concerns from community agencies and the public, I agree with her to address some of these concerns and make sure everything is done properly.”

The county planning staff is tasked with identifying how bulk propane storage is affected by San Juan County Code 18.35.080.E, which requires regular inspection of facilities located in critical aquifer recharge areas. Staff is also supposed to address development standards outlined in SJCC 18.40.280. A and D as they pertain to county and private road access, and investigate whether the propane facility will comply with emission regulations as defined in SJCC 18.40.280.D.3.

San Juan County Fire Marshall RJ Meyers and Orcas Island Fire Chief Scott Williams are required to come to an agreement on how much water will be needed in case of an emergency.

County code indicates that 500 gallons per minute (gpm) for a continuous 60 minutes is the requirement, however, Williams was on record stating that a bulk propane storage facility needs a water pressure of 935 to 1,000 gpm.

The remand order requests that the fire chief and marshal also answer five questions from the hearing examiner. These questions are: whether the bulk propane storage facility requires greater water pressure than other commercial uses do, and if so what is the appropriate rate and what standard is that rate based on; would the fireproof coating help to reduce the needed water flow amount; would this same coating make it so that Inter-Island Propane would not have to foot the bill to expand the water pressure capability of the nearby hydrant; if the standard is 500 gpm, will proof that the closest hydrant can provide this be sufficient to grant the permit; and will the property’s existing mature trees need to be removed?

The hearing examiner is also requesting that the fire marshal and fire chief agree on whether the evacuation route is adequate. If not, she is would like them to advise what level of evacuation plan would be required for the proposed use and how that would impact fire personnel and evacuees.

“It is not clear whether the Orcas Island Airport was notified of the proposal,” wrote Rice in the remand.

She noted the lack of comment from the airport and is requiring that airport staff make a statement on the proximity of bulk propane storage to the runway and the use of the property as an evacuation easement in emergency plans.

Rice noted that there is no need for another meeting, unless requested by Inter-Island or the government agencies involved in the process. She said all responses must be in writing and Inter-Island will then have the opportunity to respond.

“Inter-Island Propane is willing to work with all involved to make sure Orcas Island has a safe and competitive option for propane,” said Galt.