An initial draft of a proposed amendment to an ordinance pertaining to above ground petroleum storage tanks has placed a minimum required setback of 1,000 feet from residential property lines on any new application.
The setback, which was discussed Thursday afternoon during a meeting of the Planning Commission’s subcommittee on above ground petroleum storage tanks, would require the edge of any new tank along an area of higher scrutiny on the Mobile River be a minimum of 1,000 feet from the nearest residential property line, Chairman Jay Watkins said.
The distance immediately received criticism from both sides of the issue. Environmentalists and residents said the distance wasn’t great enough, but industry leaders said it would be too restrictive and hurt business.
Steve Gordon, president of Keep Mobile Growing, said a 1,000-foot setback would eclipse current fire code recommendations and wasn’t needed. Currently, setbacks are enforced from 25 feet to 200 feet for the materials currently stored along the Mobile River.
“I’m not pleased with 1,000 feet,” he said, adding that he may support greater setbacks on tanks on a case-by-case basis.
Mobile Baykeeper Casi Callaway said the 1,000-foot buffer was an arbitrary number and that she wanted to see 1,500-feet used instead.
“Fifteen-hundred feet is what many other communities around the country have put in place,” she said. “It’s not an arbitrary number. One thousand feet is an arbitrary number.”
Watkins said 1,000 feet was chosen as a minimum for the first draft because it seemed like a good balance. He said in looking at seven possible future tank sites, the 1,000-foot radius seemed to make the most sense for both residents and industry.
“It seemed to be the break point where tanks began encroaching on residential areas,” he said. “Two thousand feet would’ve taken good sites off the table.”
Committee member Shirley Sessions said she was hoping for a larger setback of at least 2,000 feet.
Watkins stressed during the meeting that there would be at least three more bites at the apple when it comes to the setback and other outstanding issues. He instructed Planning Commission attorney Doug Anderson to work the committee’s comments into a second draft. From there, a final draft will be presented and voted on by the full Planning Commission, at which time a final proposal will be publicized and scheduled for approval by the City Council.
There was no timetable for when the commission would vote on a final draft.