“We like the idea that we have a very small audience,” Gardiner planning chair Paul Colucci joked as the board took up further consideration last Tuesday, July 28 of the application by Kimlin Energy Services for a site-plan amendment. The fact that it was a Zoom meeting did not greatly diminish the controversy stirred up by the proposal in the community, however.
Several board members continued to press Kimlin representatives – Jennifer Gray of Keane & Beane, PC, Patty Brooks of Brooks & Brooks Land Surveyors, PC, and engineer Andy Willingham – on a variety of issues involving past noncompliance with town code. Perceived shortcomings of consultant reports submitted by the applicant also raised some eyebrows on the board, which reiterated its intention to assign independent consultants to review Kimlin’s data and/or conduct new tests.
The propane storage and delivery company has made a number of site changes over several years without waiting for permission from the town, and it is now seeking to make more, including expansion of its parking lot from three to twelve spaces, creation of a new egress onto Steve’s Lane, and replacement of an 18,000-gallon storage tank with a 32,000-gallon model.
The applicant has argued that this increased storage capacity could reduce the number of truck deliveries to the site, a sore point with neighbors on account of noise.
The acoustical survey conducted by Kimlin’s consultant, Cerami Associates, was taken at four points along the property line during a daytime fuel delivery with pumps in operation, included two readings at one location that exceeded the town’s 60-decibel nighttime noise limit, according to Gray. The attorney downplayed this result, noting that the readings were 15db lower behind an existing fence and arguing that the noise at the property line would be mitigated once construction was completed on a proposed berm. (An existing berm will have to be moved because it was constructed on land belonging to the Wallkill Valley rail-trail.)
Planners will choose consultants
The noise test was heavily criticized by the board for being conducted within a single time window: from 10:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., while most of the noise complaints from neighbors have come in response to fuel deliveries in the wee hours of the morning. “We’re also going to want to look at nighttime. There are going to have to be additional noise studies,” Colucci declared. “We as the planning board will determine what consultant we want to use.”
Also drawing fire was the report prepared by Michael Nowicki of Ecological Solutions, LLC, for the applicant’s Environmental Assessment Form (EAF), which concluded that the site contained no suitable habitat for endangered bog turtles. The proposed site expansion will disturb wetlands regulated by the US Army Corps of Engineers, which requires Kimlin to obtain a federal clearance called a Nationwide Permit. “Looking at that site, I don’t see that you can say there’s no bog turtle habitat there,” argued board member Carol Richman. “I think we should do our own independent review of that.”
Gray tried to steer the board in the direction of accepting a peer review of Nowicki’s report rather than conducting a separate survey. “I couldn’t recommend to my client anybody from the town going on the site by themselves,” she said.
Board member Ray Sokolov took strong exception to this suggestion, saying, “I don’t know why Mr. Nowicki has to be present when the site is being looked at.” A split board passed Richman’s motion to retain an independent consultant to conduct a new field study specifically targeted toward potential turtle habitat.
Kimlin studies questioned
When board members made a site visit in late May, Richman noted, “We did notice a lot of asphalt, which contains petroleum products.” Colucci reported having seen “significant piles of debris, hundreds of yards of oversized boulders” on the site, and demanded that the applicant indicate in the grading plan what was to be done with them. “Burying them underneath the parking lot is not good practice,” said the chairman, a professional excavator.
Board member Keith Libolt once again criticized the applicant’s choice of Hiltz Propane to assess the expansion plan’s compliance with federal health and safety laws regulating propane storage, mandated by OSHA, EPA and DHS, along with codes established by the National Fire Protection Association. “To date, the applicant has shown little regard for the community,” Libolt said. “I have little confidence that they are well-versed in these laws and regulations, considering that the safety system that was there was in disrepair, and was only repaired when we insisted.”
In addition to approving the independent studies, the planning board declared itself lead agency for State Environmental Quality Review of the application and to circulate the preliminary plat to the county planning board and other involved agencies. It was too late to schedule a public hearing for August, so it will likely occur in September.