Dominion’s ‘temporary’ gas tanks coming back

Next Door Neighbor Byron Dinkins: ‘I Can’t Believe We’re Here Again.’

The gas tank installed on Blythewood Road property earlier this year was also ‘temporary’. | Barbara Ball

BLYTHEWOOD – The Blythewood Board of Zoning Appeals approved a temporary permit for a compressed natural gas storage truck to be kept at the corner of Syrup Mill Road and Blythewood Road again this winter.

According to one of two representatives from Dominion Energy, which supplies natural gas to Blythewood, the tanker is needed to ensure an adequate supply of natural gas to the town, specifically to Cobblestone Park neighborhood, in the event of cold winter weather. He said that since Cobblestone is physically located last on the pipeline, it may not receive enough gas during periods of heavy usage.

The temporary special exception permit, approved unanimously, by the five member board, of which three members are Cobblestone residents, was granted with an expiration date of April 30 and requires the company to construct an 8-foot wooden fence with landscaping outside on two sides and protective concrete bollards inside.

“CNG stands for compressed natural gas. It’s used and tied to the existing distribution system to supplement gas supply during times of peak demand, so that’s typically in the morning on a really cold day like we had in [20]22 during the Christmas Eve and Christmas day time frame,” a Dominion representative explained during the meeting.

“The location is important because we can’t just put it anywhere – it has to be adjacent to our existing facilities in a way that makes sense so that we can distribute the gas appropriately with pressure and engineering and all the things these guys do on a daily basis.”

According to the Dominion representative, infrastructure improvements to the gas distribution system to meet current and future development in the town are planned for 2024 and will be completed before this time next year, so the issue won’t arise again after this winter.

Something similar was suggested when the tank showed up last year. Nevertheless, it’s back.

The tanker drew a lot of attention when it showed up unannounced on the site last winter, following a flawed county and administrative approval process that was not publicly discussed at the town level, and a lack of notification to neighbors. There was also confusion when town officials dispensed conflicting information as to whether or not they approved or even knew about the project until it was addressed by an unhappy neighbor and by the media. 

The issue erupted into a firestorm on What’s Happening Blythewood’s Facebook page after Byron Dinkins, whose 141-acre property adjoins the two-acre gas tank site, owned by neighbor Larry Sharpe, placed a string of used boats and vehicles, one with a toilet sitting on top, on his property next to the tank property. Orange spray-painted graffiti messages on the various vehicles targeted the mayor and town hall for the unsightly addition to the area.

“I can’t believe we’re here again,” said Dinkins, launching into a laundry list of complaints about the tanker parked next door.

“This was supposed to be temporary, and I thought the fire got put out when it got moved last March. Now it’s coming back.”

Mayor Bryan Franklin initially jumped to the conclusion earlier this year that the vehicle art was a prank played on him by one or more of his nemeses on town council. After learning that was not the case, Franklin about-faced and said publicly that if the gas tank was not moved by March 30, that he would sue Dominion.

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

While the tank was moved in March, six months later the issue is again on the town government’s plate.

A member of the Cobblestone Park HOA board-elect told The Voice last year that the temporary tanks were originally to be situated on a lot in Cobblestone for Cobblestone’s use, but were, for some reason, moved to Blythewood Road. He said he didn’t believe Cobblestone residents had anything to do with the relocation of the tank site to Blythewood Road next to Dinkins’ property.

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

Another neighbor, who was not identified during the BZA meeting on Sept. 27, said sarcastically that he would’ve had an easy time concealing the truck’s location on his wooded property and perhaps the power company should’ve contacted him for a less conspicuous parking spot.

“With the continued road construction taking place in the area,” the neighbor added, “the tanker will blend right in with the rest of this mess.”

Barbara Ball contributed to this report.

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