After a nearly two-hour discussion about whether propane is a raw material and the meaning of the word “bulk,” the Nobleboro Planning Board voted to table a decision about Maritime Energy’s proposed propane tank until the full board is present.
The board met Thursday, Sept. 15 to continue its discussion about Maritime Energy’s application for the installation of a 30,000-gallon propane tank at the company’s facility on the corner of Route 1 and Vannah Road.
During previous meetings of the planning board, Maritime Energy Vice President Charlie Page said the primary reason for the tank is to better serve the business’s customers in the area.
The company also has 30,000-gallon storage tanks in China, Montville, and Rockland.
Residents who live near the site have expressed concern about the application, including the potential hazards of propane storage.
Most of the board’s discussion during the Sept. 15 meeting revolved around whether Maritime Energy’s project is a “light industrial” or “heavy industrial” use under town regulations.
According to the town’s land use ordinance, a light industrial use does not require extensive heavy equipment or bulk on-site raw materials to operate. Retail fuel distribution facilities are included as a light industrial use.
The ordinance defines heavy industrial use as something that creates significant exterior or off-premise indications of use. Bulk fuel wholesale storage or distribution is included in the ordinance as a heavy industrial use.
Maritime Energy’s proposed site is in the town’s limited commercial district, which only allows for light industrial uses. Heavy industrial uses are prohibited.
Board members disagreed about whether propane could be considered a raw material. Planning Board Chair Shoshana Zuboff cited research from various sources stating that propane occurs in nature.
“It’s a naturally occurring substance,” Zuboff said. “It’s not made; it’s found in nature.”
Vice Chair Richard Powell disagreed. He said that since propane is processed before it is ready for use, it is not a raw material.
The board also discussed whether the site could be considered a bulk storage site. Zuboff said Maritime Energy’s original application described the project as a “bulk propane plant.”
In the town’s land use ordinance, bulk is defined as being a large mass or number, particularly more than an individual or retail establishment would consume or use for immediate purposes.
Powell said the word immediate in the ordinance is relative.
“We’re talking about a 10,000-gallon delivery a week. It sounds like a lot, but if you’re dropping off 1,000 gallons here and there, it’s not,” Powell said. “I think it falls under being consumed for immediate purposes.”
Zuboff made a motion to determine the project was a light industrial use, which would make it permissible under the town’s ordinance.
Before a vote was called, Powell amended the motion to table a decision until the full planning board is present.
The board voted 3-1 to table the discussion, with Zuboff casting the dissenting vote.
The Nobleboro Planning Board has until Oct. 18, 40 days after the Sept. 8 public hearing, to make a decision regarding Maritime Energy’s application.
The board has scheduled a meeting for Thursday, Sept. 29 to continue discussion about the tank. An additional meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 6 if needed.
Both meetings will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the town office.