Belfast also wants say in controversial Searsport liquid propane tank proposal

Posted June 06, 2012, at 6:55 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — City councilors heard a lot about land use matters Tuesday night in a regular council meeting that lasted until after midnight.

One issue that generated a lot of debate, according to Belfast City Planner Wayne Marshall, was a request that the city councilors send a letter to the Searsport Planning Board. The letter would ask that the city of Belfast have a say in the fate of a controversial, $40 million liquid propane tank and terminal project.

Marshall said Wednesday that many Belfast residents stood up during the public comment portion of the meeting to state their desire to join the town of Islesboro, which last week sent such a letter to the Searsport Planning Board that was signed by all selectmen.

Ultimately, the Belfast City Council did direct City Manager Joe Slocum to write a letter to the planning board that expresses concerns over the project.

Opponents have said that the large liquid propane project poses many safety concerns to the midcoast region as a whole.

Belfast residents also spoke at length about a proposal from an Allyn Street property owner to plant an arborvitae hedge in the city-owned right-of-way.

If the city agreed, the property owners would have planted the hedge 21 feet into a 66-foot-wide right-of-way that extends to Penobscot Bay.

“Most neighbors thought that was a bad idea,” Marshall said.

Eight or nine spoke Tuesday night, in addition to six who sent letters to the city.

“Most really spoke passionately of their interest in ensuring the right-of-way would be maintained,” he said.

Marshall said that it is likely that the city councilors will not approve the request from the property owners.

Also, city officials discussed the proposed rail trail that would run alongside the Passagassawakeag River.

Initial cost estimates came in at about $5.5 million to build a trail next to the existing railroad tracks, and $1.3 million to turn the tracks into a trail.

In part because of the high costs associated with building a new trail, Marshall said that the city council will be exploring an option called “rail banking.” This would allow the city to retain the long-term option of having a railroad operate in the corridor in the future while removing the track now.

“Who knows what train travel’s going to be like 40 years from now?” Marshall said. “We may have advancements in technology. This is a federal option to allow long-term use of a corridor.”

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