Dead River Company: Distribution facility denied by planning board

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CHESTERFIELD, N.H. — The town's Planning Board voted unanimously Monday night to deny a permit submitted by Dead River Company to construct a storage and distribution facility.

Dead River hoped to use the 2.27-acre lot at 22 Mill Road — which is currently being used as an auto repair facility — as a bulk plant for fuels and propane, with eight to 10 trucks assigned to the site.

In addition to four storage tanks, a 33,000-gallon containment vessel was proposed for the site as was a truck-washing system. Dead River's plan called for a containment area and a filtration system to keep any spills or contaminated runoff from reaching Catsbane Brook, which is downhill from the site. In addition to the fuel storage tanks, Dead River proposed storage tanks for petroleum distillates, solvents such as mineral spirits, kerosene, white spirits and naphtha, which are used for the removal of heavy oil and grease, tar, and waxes.

At the initial hearing, held June 20, 2016, Steve Dumont, on behalf of Chesterfield Fire and Rescue Department, provided a letter stating a number of concerns, including that an emergency at the proposed site had the potential to exhaust the fire department, police department and the mutual aid available to Chesterfield. The fire department also raised issues related how to get water to the site in case of an emergency.

At the Sept. 19, 2016, meeting, Dead River presented changes to the site plan, noting there would be only one liquefied petroleum tank on the site, and it would be buried. Dead River also noted that it would install a 6,000-gallon cistern to store water for emergencies, but Fire Chief Rick Cooper told the Planning Board that 6,000 gallons is not enough water to deal with any issue that may happen at this site. Cooper added that any emergency at the site would entail an evacuation of a nearby residential area.

At the Oct. 3, 2016, meeting, the Planning Board, Cooper said the fire department would need a 100,000-gallon cistern at the site to adequately address any emergencies. A Dead River representative told the board that suggestion "is not reasonable." Cooper also told the Planning Board that the fire department was against the project.

As of the Oct. 3 meeting, Dead River had spent more than $80,000 in engineering costs.

At the Jan. 9 meeting, the Planning Board discussed the safety of delivery trucks entering and leaving Mill Road from Route 9. The New Hampshire Department of Transportation told a board representative that the increase in truck traffic was not enough to warrant a traffic study. Dead River estimated truck traffic would be around 24 a day, or three to four an hour.

James Corliss, the chairman of the Planning Board, noted he took it upon himself to observe traffic at the Mill Road and Route 9 intersection and timed the sight lines. He said while it takes about 12 seconds from first sighting of a vehicle on Route 9 to when it reaches Mill Road, on average a vehicle passes every six seconds, sometimes more frequently depending on the time of day. According to his research, Corliss noted in that 12 seconds, a delivery truck turning right onto Route 9, which has a slight uphill, would only reach 14 to 20 mph before the arriving vehicle would be forced to slow down. While the eastbound lane is on a downslope, he said, any delivery truck would have to cross both lanes to travel east.

There was some talk that the Conservation Commission should add its advice to the process, but after discussing the issue, the Planning Board declined to postpone the matter further. Jon McKeon and Davis Peach, both members of the Planning Board, noted it was their impression the members of the Conservation Commission would be opposed to the project, even though three requests for input were made by Norman VanCor, a member of the Board of Selectmen, and no response was received.

When public comment was solicited, Nancy Eddy reminded the Planning Board that a fossil fuel storage and distribution facility ran contrary to the 2014 Southwest New Hampshire Natural Resources Plan, which recommends forward-thinking proposals to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

"Our part of the state is heavily dependent on petroleum products for heating, but we cannot continue to live this way," she said. Corliss, who eventually voted against the project, noted that not storing fossil fuels nearby raises the cost for everyone who is dependent on them for heating.

Another nearby resident noted her concern about the impact of the project on property values. Peach noted that the board has documentation that maintains there would be no decrease in property values due to the proposal, but he insisted that documentation can't over-ride the negative perceptions of having such a facility in your backyard.

After the board took public comment, it discussed whether to take a vote on the application.

"It's time we stop dancing and make a decision," said Peach.

McKeon said Planning Board members are tasked with not just determining whether an application meets zoning requirements, but also the physical layout of a site, its impact on the environment and how the proposal might affect the town's budget. Approving the proposal would most likely mean having to introduce a paid fire department to Chesterfield, he said, rather than the volunteer departments it now has, which would affect the town's tax rate.

"It is the Planning Board's duty to look at and assess the area that the facility is proposed for," said McKeon. "Being allowed doesn't mean it should go there. I don't think there is any benefit to the town for having this facility there."

Corliss said he was swayed by the environmental concerns raised during the multiple hearings and by his own evaluation of traffic on Route 9.

"We need fuel," said Corliss. "We will be using fuel oil and propane for the foreseeable future. But having said that, I don't see a safe way of putting fuel trucks onto Route 9 at that intersection without major construction. I would like to see a way to approve it, but based on the testimony I have heard and generated myself, I don't think it makes sense for the town of Chesterfield."

Planning Board member John Koopmann said his main concern was the affect the project might have on the quality of life of those who live nearby. "I don't see how this project would reflect (the quality of life) noted in the master plan," he said.

Joe Parisi, another board member, noted he was not opposed to such a facility in Chesterfield, but he was opposed to the suggested site. "While the risk is low ... the impacts are high," said Parisi. "I don't see this as a good investment for the town. Possibly at another site the risks would be different, but not for this site."

The Planning Board voted 7-0 to deny the application.

Rick Fleming, who was in attendance to represent Dead River, did not speak during the hearing. He told the Reformer that he had no comment except Dead River looked forward to receiving the written decision from the Planning Board, after which it would decide how to proceed.

Corliss noted during the hearing the town had received a "conceptual consultation" for a natural gas company in the vicinity, but had very little information to share about the proposal at this time.

Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 160.


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