The site of the proposed propane storage facility on Kroemer Avenue, adjacent to an existing propane storage facility on W. Main. Street. Image: Google Earth

A proposal to develop a liquid propane storage and distribution facility on Kroemer Avenue in Riverhead gained preliminary site plan approval last week from the Riverhead Planning Board, which initially rejected the application.

The planning board voted unanimously on a site plan that had been amended by the applicant, 48 Kroemer LLC, since a split board voted it down on June 3, with Planning Board Chairman Stan Carey, who opposed the plan, citing the objections of the Riverhead Fire District, the volume of LP gas proposed to be stored at the site, which is adjacent to a large existing propane facility and the orientation and placement of the storage tanks proposed by the application. Carey was joined in opposition by members Richard O’Dea and George Nunnaro.

The applicant in July brought a lawsuit challenging the board’d decision. The suit remains pending in State Supreme Court.

In September the applicant submitted another set of revised plans, reducing the number of 30,000-gallon storage tanks from eight to six, increasing setbacks from the tanks to a proposed industrial building and to the railroad spur on the site.

The board decided the revisions addressed the concerns fo the fire district and the fire marshal.

“They reduced the size of the project by about 20%,” Carey said in an interview Friday. The applicant also agreed to a condition in the resolution that no gas can be transferred between the new facility and an adjoining property. That was important to Carey and the others who initially opposed the approval, he said.

The board also got a memo from the town attorney clarifying its responsibility to the fire district, since the fire marshal signed off on the plan, while the fire district commissioners objected to it.

“I ask for clarification on the fact that the town board in their special permit said that the fire marshal and fire department would ensure safety,” Carey said. The fire department is still opposed to the project, he said. “So I wanted clarity. What did the town board mean by that?”

The town board granted a special permit to 48 Kroemer LLC on Sept. 15, 2020. The special permit allows the use on the property. The resolution approving the special permit states: “Review of the site plan by the Fire Marshal and Fire Department will ensure safety of the LP facility.”

The town attorney advised the planning board that “legally, they don’t have a say in the site plan.” It’s referred to them for input, he said. “He basically said that there’s no legal grounds to deny it because of the fire department,” Carey said.

Project architect Martin Sendlewski said yesterday the applicant is happy to have gotten through the process.

“It is unfortunate that we had to reduce the LP tanks by 25% even though the project originally met all requirements,” Sendlewski said.

“What is more disturbing is that the Riverhead Fire District has no confidence in the level of professionalism and expertise of Fire Marshal Craig Zitek,” he said. “Craig is very thorough and highly qualified.”

He said the fire district should have accepted the fire marshal’s analysis rather than spend money on a third-party engineer to do the same work.

“We don’t get that at all,” Sendlewski said.

The attorney for the fire district could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.