Martha’s Vineyard Commission approves Rymes Propane project

Rymes Propane & Oil has joined other providers on the Island. — File photo by Janet Hefler

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission voted on June 21 to approve, with conditions, a project by Rymes Propane Gas to operate a new propane delivery business off High Point Lane in Vineyard Haven. The commission will review a written decision at its July 12 meeting.

Rymes Propane, a New Hampshire-based company, leased a 20,000-square-foot area for three years on a parcel less than a half an acre that is part of a 10-acre property owned by Goodale Construction. Rymes intends to use the facility for propane storage and delivery only.

The Goodale property has been subdivided and currently serves as a staging and storage area for several construction and industrial companies.

Since the propane operation involves fuel storage, it triggered a referral from the town of Tisbury for review as a development of regional impact (DRI).

MVC commissioner Doug Sederholm of Chilmark ran a public hearing on the project on June 7 as the chairman of the commission’s land use planning committee (LUPC). Although he closed the hearing to public testimony that night, he kept the written record open until June 21, in order to get a legal opinion on questions raised at the hearing.

Given that the Rymes Propane project involves only part of the Goodale property, the commissioners asked whether a DRI designation could be applied to that parcel only, so that other businesses that lease parcels on the same property would not be affected by any conditions imposed by the MVC. They also asked whether a DRI designation could be removed after the propane business ceased to operate there.

At last week’s meeting, DRI analyst and planner Paul Foley gave the commissioners a memo that summarized a general discussion of the issues between MVC staff and MVC counsel Gareth Orsmond. The memo said Mr. Orsmond had recused himself from issuing an opinion because of a potential conflict on any matters related to the Goodales, which his law firm represents.

The staff memo said that it has been the MVC’s policy since its inception to apply a DRI designation to an entire parcel. “Therefore, it would be consistent for the MVC to designate the entire Goodale’s pit as a DRI in this case also,” the memo said. “We could review the propane installation on part of the parcel and acknowledge that there is existing exterior storage on the remainder of the parcel.”

While the DRI designation is in place, the memo said the other businesses on the property would not have to obtain permission from the MVC for changes to their storage operations, as long as the general use remains the same and no activities are added that could introduce nitrogen or toxins into the water table.

In order to rescind a DRI designation when Rymes Propane vacates the property, the memo said the MVC must state a time limit as a condition in a DRI decision. Or, if such a condition is not included in a DRI decision, once the propane business no longer operates on the property, the Goodales can request that the MVC rescind the DRI designation, which would require a public hearing.

After Mr. Foley’s review of the memo, Mr. Sederholm closed the public hearing. Later in the meeting, the commissioners agreed to waive the LUPC’s post-hearing review of the Rymes Propane project, and they moved ahead with deliberations. They concluded with a unanimous vote to approve the project with conditions.