Searsport board readies for DCP propane tank review

Posted May 17, 2012, at 5:28 p.m.

SEARSPORT, Maine — The application by DCP Midstream to build a $40 million liquid propane tank at the Mack Point port facility may be the largest project the town’s planning board has ever considered.

The first meeting in the review process is set for 7 p.m. on Monday, May 21, in the upper level of Union Hall, the town office building. Though many in town have strong feelings about the project, both pro and con, there will not be time to speak about the proposal at the meeting.

Long-time Planning Board Chairman Bruce Probert said the board’s first order of business is to determine whether or not the application is complete. At 700-plus pages, that process will likely take multiple meetings, he said.

Probert said the application was delivered to the town office on May 4. The board met on May 14 with its attorney, Kristin Collins of the Belfast firm Kelly & Collins, to discuss how to proceed, given the scope of the project and the highly charged nature of the proposal.

“We want the process not to deviate from the way we’ve done things,” Probert said Thursday, not favoring input from opponents or proponents, and following the zoning ordinance “right to the letter.”

Provided certain criteria are met, the 137-foot-tall, 23-million-gallon tank is a permitted use in the industrial district for which it is proposed, Probert said. If and when the planning board determines that the application is complete, it must weigh the proposal against 18 performance standards outlined in the ordinance, he said.

After discussion with the board attorney, Probert believes that many of the concerns of opponents will be addressed during the phase when the board tries to determine if the application is complete or not.

Probert has met with opponents to gather their concerns in writing, so the board can find the appropriate part of the application in which they are, or are not, addressed.

When the public hearing portion of the process begins, speakers will have their time limited, he said. Speakers can pool their time, he added, but hoped that they will have questions rather than comments.

“It shouldn’t be redundant,” Probert said, and pledged that “neither proponents nor opponents will dominate or filibuster.”

Some opponents have suggested that Probert may have a conflict because he used to work for Sprague, the company that owns part of the port facility and is its operator. Probert dismisses those concerns, noting that he has been retired from the company for 11 years.

Roz Elliott, spokeswoman for the Denver-based company, said DCP Midstream has secured all its state and federal permits for the project to go forward. Those include approvals from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“We’re excited that it’s at this stage of the process,” she said Thursday.

Acknowledging the size and scope of the application, she said the board “may need to involve external consultants, and we think that’s appropriate.”

If the tank is permitted by early summer, Elliott said, some construction may get under way this fall.

The meetings will be televised on the town’s public access channel.

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