An oil company wants to put a petroleum, liquefied petroleum gas and coal products plant on a 21-acre parcel on Joe B. Jackson between the Subway restaurant and the NHK auto seat facility. The legal notice says no refining will be involved.

[I did find a promotional video the company put out. It might ease your fears. You can judge for yourselves. The man talking is Darrel Kington, vice president of lubricants with the company. Here is the You Tube link:]

Several statements in the video were reassuring. Kington said all processes, including storage tanks are contained within the company’s buildings. Its facilities are manned at all times, and no one is more than 10 feet from a shutoff valve. Finally, he said their will be a dyke system in place around anything Key builds here to contain any spills. The only worry is spills from huge tanks trucks entering or leaving Key’s facility.

Because the plan requires a special use permit, the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) will consider the application on Sept. 23 at 1 p.m.  The BZA meets in the council chambers on the first floor of city hall, the building next to the Linebaugh Library.

"When do I get to yell "the sky is falling?'"
“When do I get to yell ‘the sky is falling?'”

So much for high sounding promises

The light industrial zoning that was in  place on the parcel was designed to protect nearby homes from bad, polluting neighbors. It bans any use that transmits vibrations, noise, odor or smoke to neighboring properties.

The heavy industrial zoning that the council approved for the parcel on July 30th, is a virtual blank check for industrial developers to do their damage.

The infamous second level of review

Here is the bargain we got when the council gave developer John Harney the rezoning he asked for. These are among the uses allowed by right in a heavy industrial zone: Animal slaughterhouse, chemical plant, fertilizer factory and steel or aluminum mill.

These uses seem bad enough, but there are some that are considered even more serious so that a use permit is required.  This is the so-called “second level of review” that Councilman Eddie Smotherman said is supposed to protect our interests.

The use permit appears to be a done deal

The debate is no longer whether this liquid petroleum gas and coal products plant will go in, but what limits the BZA will put on it.

The conditions of the typical use permit that are spelled out don’t change the negative nature of the use. A fireworks factory, for example, must be within 500 feet of a fire hydrant. It remains a fireworks factory, however. In addition, in most cases the BZA can impose other conditions as it sees fit. But obviously, it can’t be arbitrary or unreasonable without landing the city in court. I don’t see how it can deny a conditional use outright either.

High sounding phrases ringing in our ears

There have been a lot of high sounding reassurances on this rezoning proposal. When it first came before council on July 9th, Harney pointed his track record as a developer here and pledged to always be a “good steward of the land.”

Vice Mayor Doug Young urged neighboring homeowners to calm down, vowing that the council won’t permit anything harmful to homeowners to go in on Joe B. Jackson. He pointed to the benign uses up there now, which would lead one to believe we were getting more of the same. His promise to guard the store was hollow, however, since the council had already given the store away with the rezoning vote. The BZA decision on the use permit is final, and the council is not involved.

This stuff you’re making us eat sure tastes good.

I hope many of you residents will show up at the meeting to give the BZA your input. But obviously the 1 p.m. meeting time is not designed for citizen participation.

Here is the legal notice informing everyone about the use permit. I added the parentheses:
“Application Z-15-062 by Darrell Kington of Key Oil Company, requesting a Special Use Permit to allow a Petroleum, Liquified Petroleum Gas, and Coal Products (Except Refining) facility in the Heavy Industrial (H-I) district, for property located near the intersection of Joe B. Jackson Parkway and Mayoral Court. All interested parties are invited to attend.”

I don’t want to rush to judgment, but I wonder how everyone’s property values will fare with this outfit as a neighbor.

In August of 2011, Key Oil Co. signed a consent agreement with the EPA, neither admitting or denying guilt over allegations it spilled 106 gallons of oil in Hardin County, Ky. back on March 11, 2011. As part of the settlement, the company paid he EPA a $500 penalty, and the agency agreed to take no further action in the case. That is the only negative thing I could find about the company’s safety record, and it does not seem like a big deal to me. The Exxon Valdez spill has been estimated at between 10.8 million and 31.7 million gallons.