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Town Board to revise resolution on United Riverhead Terminal’s biofuel tanks

The Riverhead Town Board is removing a requirement that United Riverhead Terminal agree to pursue the acquisition of privately owned property on the corner of Sound Avenue and Penny’s Lane in order to improve the intersection of those roads.

A Town Board resolution on URT’s expansion proposal was tabled at the Feb. 20 board meeting, as it contained a line that URT “understands and agrees that condemnation may be needed” in order “to complete the acquisition, improvement and highway dedication” at the intersection.

It was unclear if the Town Board would vote on the revised URT resolution at its meeting this Tuesday, March 5.

Linda Prizer, the president of the Northville Beach Civic Association, read a letter from Eve Kaplan, one of the owners of the property in question, at a Feb. 20 Town Board meeting. Ms. Kaplan’s letter said no one from the town or the applicant had contacted her or told her there would be a resolution on Feb. 20. She threatened “legal remedies” if the resolution was not pulled from the agenda, which it was.

URT is proposing to build a 28-by-45-foot concrete pad and six new 18,000 gallons tanks for storing biofuel at its Northville facility.

The company says it is required by a recent state law to mix biofuel with home heating oil at a minimum of five percent, and up to 20 percent. Anything between 6 to 20 percent qualifies for state tax credits.

The proposal requires a special permit from the Town Board because the current zoning of the property is residential, but the Northville plant was built before zoning was enacted.

The town code permits expansion of a “pre-existing, non-conforming” use with a special permit. A site plan approval from the town Planning Board also will be needed.

The URT proposal drew concerns from other speakers on Feb. 20, including some who questioned why condemnation, also called eminent domain, would be used to take private land in order to benefit a private business.

Condemnation is when a municipality asks a court to give it property for a public benefit, and in turn, the courts would later determine the price owned by the municipality.

The URT application came up again for discussion at Thursday’s Town Board work session, where board members tempers rose on several occasions on the issue of how the condemnation clause got into the Feb. 20 resolution.

Town Attorney Bob Kozakiewicz said he put it in the resolution in order to “capture all scenarios.” He said the wording should have said “if needed.”

Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith and Councilwoman Catherine Kent both questioned how the planning department determined that the proposal did not require an environmental impact study when part of the remediation cited in a Nov. 19, 2018 traffic study from the applicant — specifically the condemnation — would not be attainable since the property owner is opposed.

Jeff Murphree, the town’s building and planning administrator, said the traffic conditions that exist now will not be made worse by the proposal.

Vic Prusinowski, a consultant for URT as well as a former Town Board member, said Thursday that the proposal will not result in additional trucks coming to or from the Northville facility.

He said URT currently sends empty trucks from their Calverton facility, called United Metro Energy, to the Northville facility, where biofuel is pre-blended with home heating oil, and then trucked back to their United Metro Energy facility at Enterprise Park at Calverton.

The mixed fuel at Calverton is sold to customers on the south shore and in eastern Brookhaven Town, he said.

The home heating oil that currently arrives at the Northville site come from a ship docked at URT’s offshore platform in Long Island Sound, and it is pre-blended at 5 percent with biofuel, which is an additive that is non-combustable and is an organic vegetable project, according to Mr. Prusinowski.

That oil is pre-blended at five percent and cannot be blended at any other rate, which means that customers cannot get the oil blended at the higher percentage for tax credits.

If the six tanks are approved, the same trucks arriving empty from Calverton would contain biofuel as they arrive at URT, and would leave with the blended amount. By blending the oil and biofuel at the Northville site, they could blend it at varying percentages, according to Mr. Prusinowski.

The Calverton site only has about one million gallons for storage, whereas the Northville one has 210 million gallons.

The six proposed new tanks would hold a total of 108,000 gallons. URT also agreed to reimburse the total for the cost of any work the town does on the Sound Avenue/Penny’s Lane intersection.

URT would not do the work or the design or engineering, it would just reimburse the town for the cost of those jobs, according to Mr. Prusinowski.

Ms. Jens-Smith said this offer will likely be included in a revised resolution for URT’s special permit.

Northville residents have raised concerns about trucks in the intersection, saying the larger fuel trucks often pull into the oncoming lane in order to make turns.

Ms. Jens-Smith also suggested that language be included in the revised resolution indicating that there will be no additional truck traffic due to the importation of the biofuel, and that these same trucks will leave the facility full.

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