HomEnergy fuel tank move approved

SARANAC LAKE – A local fuel company has received village Planning Board approval to move its fuel storage tanks to a new site on Van Buren Street.

HES Ventures’ plans to move a half-dozen HomEnergy Services fuel storage tanks, ranging in size from 3,000 to 12,000 gallons, from its property on Depot Street to a 0.81-acre parcel on Van Buren, behind Kinney Drugs, that the company acquired in a 2009 land swap with the village. The company also plans to add a new, 30,000-gallon propane storage tank to the Van Buren Street property.

The project, which was approved last week, had been under review for the better part of six months. Neighbors had raised concerns about, among other things, increased truck traffic and bad smells coming from the proposed facility, while others feared potential environmental contamination into Lake Colby.

Planning Board Chairwoman Leslie Karasin said Wednesday that the board attached a series of conditions to its approval that address many of those concerns.

“At the December meeting, the board developed a list of 23 items that we felt needed to be address in order for there to be an approvable project,” she said. “Those spoke to everything from the location of the landscaping, the type of fencing and details about the site plan indicating the lighting. The outcome is a site plan that does everything it can to minimize visual impacts and will be a better project as a result of the back-and-forth between the applicant and the planning board.”

Karasin noted that there are several other fuel storage facilities in the same area.

The Lake Colby Association had raised concerns about potential spills from the fuel tanks causing environmental contamination in its namesake watershed.

“The planning board addressed that by doing a site visit at the existing site and learning more about how (the state Department of Environmental Conservation) regulates fuel storage facilities, and the practices in place at HES Ventures to minimize water quality impacts,” Karasin said.

The board invited DEC to take lead agency status for the project’s State Environmental Quality Review, but the department declined, Karasin added.

“The main thing we walked away with was the sense that every indication we have is that HES Ventures goes above and beyond all of the compliance measures,” Karasin said. “Since DEC has established those standards, I think it was the feeling of the planning board that it’s not really our role to, sort of, question that.

“We did look for a few additional assurances, such as an oil-water separator. But the main thing is that the fuel storage tanks are all required to be contained within a dike constructed of concrete and sized to accommodate the largest feasible spill. In the end, our sense was that the applicant was doing everything they could reasonably be asked to do to minimize the risk of environmental damage.”

The project was granted a special use permit in a 4-0 vote, Karasin said.

Dan Reilly of HES Ventures said the board’s review was “very thoughtful and thorough.

“During the course of several months and numerous meetings, we all did our best to be respectful of the adjacent property owners,” Reilly wrote in an email Thursday. “The Planning Board made a concerted effort to understand the many things HomEnergy does operationally in order to be certain that we are both environmentally compliant and eco-friendly. The final site plan reflects all these concerns.”

Reilly didn’t give a specific timeline for when the fuel tanks would be moved. He said it will depend on budgetary concerns.

HES Ventures initially wanted to relocate its fuel storage to Van Buren Street to make room for a 12,000-square-foot shopping complex with apartments upstairs on the site of what is now several old warehouse buildings on Depot Street. The village and HES received a $550,000 state grant for the project in January 2008, but the plan has since been put on the back burner.

Asked about his long-term plan for the Depot Street property, Reilly wrote that “HES Ventures is very interested to continue the high-quality development of the last multiple years that Depot Street has seen with the train station, (Veterans Administration) Clinic, credit union and now the Carousel. We are one of several property owners in and around Depot Street, so hopefully there can be a collective effort to invest in positive development. We are actively seeking prospective office, commercial or mixed-use tenants. Some space is available now, some exists in drawings.”

Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or