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Propane facility moves forward despite objections

A new propane storage facility will be installed near Deer Park in the near future.

After months of debate over the issue, the business proposal by Country Comfort LLC went through due to the apparent unconstitutionality of St. Croix County's zoning ordinance.

The Town of Cylon previously balked at the plan, noting safety concerns for neighboring residential properties at the intersection of Highway 46 and County Road H. Neighbors objected to the plan, suggesting that a better site for the storage facility was at Four Corners (the intersection of Highways 46 and 64) where numerous commercial businesses already exist.

But because Cylon is one of 18 of 21 St. Croix County townships that are governed by county zoning rules, the issue was eventually forwarded to the Board of Adjustment for consideration.

But at the Board of Adjustment meeting Jan. 28, Country Comfort's attorney Brian Nodolf informed county officials that it was his opinion that the county has no say in the matter.

Due to a 2008 Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling, he said, if a county's zoning ordinance does not specifically list "permitted uses" in a commercial zone, a special exception requirement like St. Croix County's is unconstitutional.

Greg Timmerman, county corporate counsel, agreed with the legal opinion.

As a result, the site in the Town of Cylon where the propane tank storage facility was proposed is stripped of its commercial zoning designation and the county has no authority to restrict the type of business than can locate there.

What's more, Timmerman said, all commercial property in the 18 townships that are governed by the county zoning ordinance now have no zoning designation.

Timmerman admitted that the situation is a concern to county officials and an amendment to the current ordinance is already in the works to correct the problem.

Dave Fodroczi, director of Planning & Zoning, said proposed amendments have already been discussed by the Planning & Zoning Committee. A public hearing is set for March 3 in Hudson to discuss the proposals.

If all goes well, Fodroczi said, the committee will act on the matter at its March 9 meeting and the County Board will consider the amendments at its March 16 meeting.

Fodroczi said county officials are anxious to correct the problem so that county and town officials have a say about where certain businesses can locate.

Fodroczi said the entire situation was "pretty much" a surprise to county officials.

Country Comfort officials have informed the county that they intend to move forward with the propane storage facility. Country Comfort completed the purchase of the land on Jan. 29 and they indicated, in a letter to Timmerman, that construction would begin in the near future.

Although Country Comfort is not required to comply with any of the provisions outlined in the county's special exception guidelines, Nodolf wrote, the company would try to adhere to the county's wishes.

"As Country Comfort is a responsible corporate citizen and good neighbor, it will endeavor to construct this facility in a manner as reasonably consistent with its design as set forth in the special exception application," he noted.

According to Country Comfort's plans, the 5.35-acre lot would include two 30,000-gallon propane tanks and 10 to 50 stored residential tanks.

The entire tank area would be fenced. During peak delivery times, namely in the winter, there would be four to six delivery truck trips to the site. Semi-truck deliveries would also be required at the site on a regular basis.

In response to neighbors' concerns, Country Comfort officials said they were willing to plant trees to block the view of the storage facility from neighbors.

The proposal would also require a new driveway to be installed on the eastern edge of the property. An existing driveway off Highway 46 would be abandoned to improve safety in the area.

According to Country Comfort President Denni St. Aubin, the new facility is needed to serve the company's customers in a 15-mile radius of Deer Park. Country Comfort's current facility in Amery has been transferred to another business, forcing the company to find a nearby site. The location north of Deer Park is ideal, St. Aubin said, because it's centrally located among its area customers.

Telephone calls to Nodolf were not returned.