Getting to the bottom of gas tank approval

The natural gas regulator station is located at the corner of Syrup Mill and Blythewood roads.

BLYTHEWOOD – When land at the corner of Syrup Mill Road and Blythewood Road began to be disturbed during the first week of December, The Voice received several inquiries about it from the community.

A town hall official verified in a phone conversation on Dec. 6 that the property is in the Town Center zoning district, that the town hall knew about the project, and that it was a “temporary natural gas stabilization site.”

Later that day, Town Administrator Carroll Williamson sent an email to The Voice stating that was not the case, that the newspaper reporter had misunderstood.

But a citizen had already provided The Voice with an email from a town official dated Dec. 5, with quotes from Dominion Energy confirming the project was “a compressed natural gas regulator station.”

“Basically it’s here for the winter to provide natural gas. Once winter is over, the property will be returned to its original site,” the quote in the email stated.

Finding out who approved/permitted the project was more difficult.

Williamson posted a stop-work order later on Tuesday, and called a meeting with Dominion for the next afternoon, Wednesday, Dec. 7, for about 1:30. After the meeting, work resumed later that day.

The property where the project is located is owned by Blythewood businessman Larry Sharpe, who told The Voice he has a one-year contract with Dominion to lease the land, and that Dominion had handled all the permitting. Sharpe said he had not been involved with any approvals.

During a special called town council meeting [on a separate issue] on Friday, Dec. 8, Williamson was asked by Councilman Brock for an update on the issue.

Williamson said that when he pulled up to the site [Dec. 6.] he knew nothing about what was going on and was presented with an approved plan for the work.

“While the project was land disturbance, it also changed the use of the land,” he said.

“Richland County approves all land disturbance/storm water permits,” Williamson said. “Richland County thought the Town was aware of the project, but they are not necessarily obligated to notify us.  So they approved it.

“So I talked with Dominion. In our ordinance is a temporary non-conforming use that the town administrator can authorize as long as it meets some benefit or upgrades the non-conforming use.

“So I wrote a non-conforming permit that says on May 31, 2022, this is over and has to be cleaned up,” Williamson said. “It was miscommunication on a type of project we don’t often see. Dominion was very apologetic.”

The project, according to Todd Feaster, a realtor with Utility Land Service, is intended to provide extra natural gas capacity for Cobblestone residents and others in the area who are served by Dominion until a permanent pipeline can be constructed.

“There have been so many new homes built in the area in a short time that the demand for natural gas has increased to the point that there is not enough capacity for them all,” Feaster said.

“An on-site tractor trailer on wheels will house a 50-foot-long tank of natural gas that will be hooked into Cobblestone’s natural gas system to provide additional capacity through this winter. When the tank runs empty, another one will be brought in,” he said.

 “The tractor trailers will leave as soon as winter is over,” Feaster said. “Options in the lease, however, allow the property to be used for two more winters if necessary.”

A member of the Cobblestone HOA board-elect told The Voice that the temporary tanks were originally to be situated on a lot in Cobblestone but were, for some reason, moved to Blythewood Road.

“It may be an eyesore for a while,” he said, “but it’s for the good of the community.”

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