Yet another problem of Epimethean proportions now plagues the slow-speed construction of 51 Main Street in New Paltz, and for this one owner Dimitri Viglis is seeking intervention by village trustees, requesting the right to install an underground propane tank within three feet of a village-owned parking lot.
The problem is that there just isn’t enough room for everything on the lot; Viglis has maximized the height and coverage requirements for the lot, but still needs a way to provide cooking heat in the proposed restaurant. He wants to bury a propane tank around back, underneath where cars would park, but the property line is so close that to do that he will need to secure a right-of-way from the adjacent village lot.
Trustees and the mayor were skeptical.
Mayor Tim Rogers was not convinced by the information about propane tank safety Viglis provided. He noted that a village-owned oil tank right outside Village Hall passed a regular inspection shortly before a leak was discovered; cleaning that mess up has cost taxpayers $50,000 and counting.
“Propane just disperses,” Viglis explained, rather than remaining in the ground like oil. Still, Rogers noted, there remains a combustibility risk, one which the mayor feels could be heightened by parking cars atop the tank. Plans to build a sprinkler system did not appear to ease his concern.
The tank cannot be simply placed in the back, because Viglis needs that space to comply with parking requirements. The original plan was to site the tank on a neighboring property, but Viglis explained that when he tried to get that understanding in writing, it was “like it never happened,” and most of his calls to that property owner were not returned. Rogers was unsympathetic to his plight, as he made the assumption about tank placement without securing a written agreement.
Viglis tried comparing his propane tank to the much larger gasoline tank buried at the Mobil station across North Chestnut Street, but that’s on private property, and does not encroach into the setback as this one would. The proximity of such a tank would likely reduce the value of the village property, if it were ever sold; Rogers and others feel that would be a disservice to taxpayers.
“Then you won’t get my property tax,” Viglis said.
Trustee Don Kerr, “trying to get to yes,” even went as far as suggesting that some parking could be waived in the densely-packed village core, where spaces are at a premium and business owners grumble about them not being available for paying customers.
At one point Viglis claimed he was being treated unfairly because he wasn’t born in New Paltz. “I wasn’t born here either,” said deputy mayor KT Tobin.
Rogers questioned Viglis’ long-term plans, saying, “You told people you wanted to get a [certificate of occupancy] and sell” the building, rather than open any business there.
Viglis refused suggested alternatives such as putting in an oil tank inside to reduce the size of the required propane tank; instead he claimed the only alternative would be to “dynamite Main Street” in order to put in a natural gas line. Rogers later noted that generally such lines are installed using lateral drilling, rather than explosives.
“It’s not our job to brainstorm this,” said Tobin, although she agreed that bringing this project to a conclusion after some four years of construction would be preferable. “The oil idea is a good one.”
The conversation ended with Viglis storming out of the room.