Proposed propane facility fueling controversy in North Branford

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NORTH BRANFORD--Forty Ciro Road in North Branford is where you'll find a small plot of peaceful wetlands. The property sits adjacent to several businesses and is zoned as "industrial."

The property is the proposed site for a 60,000 gallon propane storage facility, and a ruling on the permit to store the tanks at the site in question is now in the hands of the state.

"The town has opened us up to a very vulnerable and dangerous situation," said Chris Kranick, who lives a half mile from the site, which is actually owned by a town councilman.

"If something bad happens with propane it's all or nothing. A 60,000 gallon catastrophe, if it were to happen, would knock houses off their foundation within a half a mile," said Kranick.

James Flaherty is also in opposition to the propane facility.

"Within 1,500 feet the flash from this, the radiant heat will set your house on fire," said Flaherty.

It's usually up to the town wetlands commission to make the decision. But five out of the six members have resigned or recused themselves.

So, in a rare occurrence, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection will be the judge.

"This is not a default, it's not a punt, it's actually a very appropriate method," said the town's attorney, John Gesmonde.

Gesmonde said propane storage isn't all that rare. "There are about 60 bulk propane storage tank sites throughout the state."

But Kranick notes that towns neighboring North Branford don't even allow that many gallons of propane. "Branford and Madison, two neighboring towns have a bulk propane limit of 12,000 gallons and 10,000."

However, North Branford's fire chief essentially supports the project and says it's safe. Opponents have labeled him biased and incorrect and called for his resignation.

Thursday night, the fire commission held a meeting at town hall to support the chief's position.

Now, both sides will have to wait and see what the state decides.

"They are introducing something very damaging to the town and opening the door to unlimited propane. This is going to change the town forever," said Kranick.

The next local meeting on the issue is Nov. 6.

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