Hearing on propane facility delayed

By: Gloria Beverage
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A public hearing on a controversial propane distribution facility in the light industrial park off Highway 174 has been delayed. Originally scheduled for Wednesday's Colfax City Council meeting, no new date has been scheduled, city officials announced on Thursday.
The proposed facility would consist of two on-site storage tanks – one with a 30,000-gallon capacity and the second with a 14,000-gallon capacity.
Several longtime Colfax residents are raising concerns about the facility, including fire safety and limited access to the property.
They’re also questioning why the project isn’t being required to hook up to the city’s sewer system.
Owner/operator of the plant will be JS West, a 101-year-old family-owned business with several other plants in Northern California.
“We continue in our commitment to the communities where we work, live and serve,” said Jill Benson, vice president and a fourth generation member of the founding family. “We currently serve over 1,500 customers on the area.”
Benson went on to explain the company is in “dire need of finding a home and place to store propane in order to continue to serve our customers as well as grow.”
The existing 3.25-acre parcel, currently owned by Schwartz Construction, is zoned industrial. The proposal calls for subdividing the property into 1.74 acres, which would be utilized by the propane storage facility and 1.51 acres retained for use by the construction business.
A small manufacturing company and a trucking business are located in the industrial park, which is located just past Colfax Veterinary Clinic on Highway 174.
According to Benson, the facility will lessen the company’s carbon footprint.
“We have been using another location – a storage area in Rocklin,” she said. “We needed storage close to our customers in order to serve them and to be efficient in our operation.”
She indicated the company closely follows the National Fire Protection Association standards of operation for handling hazardous materials.
“We maintain strict safety policy and procedures in every installation we have,” she said. “With ongoing training and good management practices in place we’re able to run safe, clean operations without incident.”
In addition, the facility will be fenced and well-lighted with proper setbacks and enough space to allow for emergency vehicle turnaround, Benson said. Initially, staffing would consist of three drivers, a manager and an office worker.
“Our impact will be pretty minimal,” she said. “At the end of the day, our delivery trucks will go there and spend the night rather than going back to Auburn. We’ll be shrinking our carbon footprint.”
Longtime Colfax residents Mary Walker and Jeannie Claxton have concerns about the location of the facility.
“We’re pushing for an environmental impact report. A negative declaration will not serve for the long term,” said Walker, whose family has owned property in the area for more than 50 years. “They need more time to look at the potential risks and safety.”
One of her primary concerns is the limited access to the property. The only road in and out of the industrial park has a 20 percent grade. Walker questions the safety of vehicles using that road during the winter months.
She also questioned why the city is not requiring the propane business to hook up to the sewer system. Currently, the property utilizes a septic system.
“This is the city’s chance to get it out there,” she said.
Ted Back, a member of the Auburn Watchdog Action Group and a longtime Colfax resident, agrees with Walker.
“This project should be connected to the city sewer and new state of the art $11 million wastewater treatment plant,” he said. “Typically, the developer puts in the sewer line to the agency’s standards, dedicates the pipe to the city and the developer recovers its investment when additional people hook up to the sewer main as provided by government code.”
He also questions the potential hazards of the project.
“This project exposes people and structures to a significant risk of loss, injury or death involving wildland fires,” he said.
This is the third attempt by JS West to locate a distribution facility in Colfax.
In 2002 the company attempted to locate a facility on property within 500 feet of the Mink Creek subdivision off Whitcomb Avenue.
After listening to the opposition from Mink Creek Homeowners Association, JS West withdrew its proposal.
The following year, the company purchased land at a different site on Whitcomb Avenue. However, plans to develop the property were never submitted to the city,
“We look forward to making Colfax our new home and contribute to the tax revenues to the City of Colfax and new job opportunities as we grow,” Benson said.
She added that JS West will partner with West Coast Propane Association, Placer County and city of Colfax to offer live propane gas firefighting training with Emergency First Responders.
“We’re also really excited about the program we’re starting to benefit the Susan G Komen Foundation,” Benson concluded. “For every gallon of propane delivered from our pink bobtail trucks, we donate to find the cure for breast cancer.”