Uncertainties about potential noise impacts and how best to mitigate them continue to bog down Kimlin Propane’s long-running quest for permission to expand its flagship facility at 14 Steve’s Lane in Gardiner. An amended site plan that Kimlin brought to the February 23 Planning Board meeting met with mild praise for its landscaping improvements, but deep skepticism about the company’s efforts to address neighbors’ concerns about noise.
The board gave Kimlin the go-ahead to proceed immediately with construction of an acoustical buffer on the side of the property facing Dusinberre Road and the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, following a determination by Gardiner’s building inspector/code enforcement officer that the proposed placement of the barrier was not in violation of setback requirements. The sound barrier will consist of an earth berm topped with a six-foot fence made of PVC plastic “with noise-deadening material inside,” according to project engineer Andrew Willingham.
Several Planning Board members, however, argued that the noise studies that Kimlin has conducted to date are inadequate. Noting that most complaints from neighbors have focused on fuel deliveries late at night, Marc Moran pointed out that Kimlin’s noise tests have included “no nighttime readings. I don’t think that’s appropriate. We should be looking at ambient noise levels, and then the additional noise [of deliveries] on top of that.” Moran also found fault with Kimlin’s noise mitigation measures being geared only towards Dusinberre residents and not neighbors on the north side of the property. “We’ve had letters from at least two residences on Phillies Bridge [Road] that raise noise concerns,” he said.
Kimlin Propane’s attorney, Jennifer Gray, then proposed that her client amend the site plan significantly, “moving the offloading area to the left of the storage tanks. That would further mitigate noise.” Planning Board chair Paul Colucci observed that such a move would involve “increasing noise on the neighbors to the west, but that area’s mostly not residential. The property line is further away.”
The board voted to declare its intent to serve as lead agency in State Environmental Quality Review of the project, but stopped short of taking the next step of scheduling a public hearing, given the configurational wild card that Gray had just introduced. Colucci urged Kimlin’s representatives to “make a timely decision about whether to move the docking station,” adding, “There’s nothing stopping you from proceeding with your fence.”
Other board members emphasized the need for better information on noise impacts, with or without the reconfiguration, before the process could move forward. “I don’t think we’re ready for a public hearing. We should have more information about noise,” said Carol Richman. “I don’t know how the public can effectively comment.”
“We’re not ready,” agreed Ralph Varano. “We have no acoustical benchmark.”