Esther Bizier of Maine-Land Development Consultants in Livermore Falls shows Bethel residents the layout of Everett Propane’s proposed distribution facility on Route 26. The Bethel Planning Board voted 3-2 last week to approve the site plan and 4-1 not to hold a public hearing on it. The Bethel Citizen photo by Samuel Wheeler

BETHEL — The Planning Board has voted 3-2 to approve the site plan for a controversial propane gas distribution facility on Route 26.

The board also voted 4-1 not to hold a public hearing on the site plan application filed by Everett Propane of West Paris.

Owner Scott Everett plans to install two, 30,000-gallon tanks and a 1,000-gallon propane pump station on 4.24 acres at 175 Walkers Mills Road. He purchased the property, which has a house and a garage, last summer.

The propane distribution facility will be built at the back of the property with tanks more than 250 feet from Route 26.

Neil Scanlon and Laurie Winsor voted against the site plan at the June 26 meeting.

Member Dwayne Bennett recused himself from the vote, citing business interests as the primary reason. He is an abutter to the site.

Member Cheri Thurston, who helped Everett Propane with the property purchase, did not recuse herself, saying, “I don’t see that this has any bearing on this. The Everetts never shared with me what they intended to do with the property. There was another broker involved as well.”

The project has drawn criticism from residents, including those who live next to or near the site and are concerned about fire and traffic safety.

Mike Zeoli, who resides in the Forest Drive subdivision abutting the site, said, “The point is not how much the board member was paid for the real estate deal. The point is how much Everett paid for the property and has invested in the property. That’s the money she would have had to vote against, not her commission on the sale. Her choices on how to vote would influence her future business in the area.”

Forest Drive resident Michele Conroy added, “I felt the decision was made months ago and that the board member should have recused herself even though she said she hardly made any money off the sale.

Melinda Remington, who resides on Bailey Road across Route 26 from the proposed site, said she was concerned about the entrance.

Esther Bizier of Maine-Land Development Consultants in Livermore Falls said the new entry would create a better sight distance for traffic in both directions and large trees near the road will be taken down to improve visibility.

There are no plans for a “trucks entering” sign” near the road, but an “Everett Propane” sign will be installed.

A road to the back of the property will be built almost parallel from the entrance on Sunset Road.

Bizier said trees will be planted on each side of the tanks to limit visibility, but there will be no fence around them because it would make the site look more “industrial.”

A truck with no trailer will make four trips a day in and out of the facility, and a tractor-trailer truck will make one stop daily around 10 a.m.

Gary Wilson, who also resides on Forest Drive, wondered how many full-time firefighters the Fire Department has, how long it takes Fire Chief Mike Jodrey to get from his house to the fire station and then to the scene, and if any staff have been trained in handling propane.

“We have submitted an official documentation in the plan of Chief Jodrey’s evaluation of his readiness and ability to manage a problem that might exist at the site and we find it satisfactory,” Charron said.

Member Mike Charron, addressing the decision not to hold a public hearing on the site plan, said, “We would be in need of additional information before we felt comfortable that we could adjudicate on the application I think we have enough information to adjudicate.”

He said he would “entertain” comments if there was new material brought to the board’s attention.

Winsor cast the dissenting vote on the hearing.

According to town codes, the Planning Board decision can be appealed in writing to the Board of Appeals within 30 days.

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