November 20, 2019

Fueling Station To Remain in Place

By Anne Levin

Having considered recommendations from the town’s Public Works Committee, Princeton Council voted 5-1 Monday night, November 18, to leave the municipal fueling station on Mt. Lucas Road instead of moving it to another location.

The fueling station, which is next to the new headquarters of Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad (PFARS), has been a source of controversy among residents of the adjacent neighborhood, who have complained about increased traffic, lighting, aesthetics, pedestrian and cyclist safety, and environmental health issues. Several spoke at the Council meeting, urging the governing body to go back to the drawing board before taking a vote.

“In the end, we have a fueling station that never should have been put there,” said resident Dennis Scheil. “We need to find a better spot.” Mt. Lucas Road resident Karen Jezierny said, “The remediation that has been suggested hasn’t yet hit the mark. Go back and do better before you vote.”

A subcommittee of the Site Plan Review Advisory Board (SPRAB) evaluated five alternative locations for the facility, reporting to the Public Works Committee that none of the sites were ideal, and recommending that the fueling be shared by three locations:  the Princeton Public Schools administration building and bus parking area at the old at Valley Road School, the Harrison Street municipal service garage parking lot, and the Mt. Lucas Road site. The Public Works Committee reviewed the sites and concluded that all three had problems.

“They  found  significant issues  with  the  Valley  Road  site  that  are  not  easily  addressed,” reads a report on the municipal website. “They found that the Harrison Street site is not well suited to serve as the main fueling facility, but can serve as an auxiliary fueling site for some vehicles, as it is currently operating. The Committee found that the current fueling location should remain, and that additional steps should be taken to address aesthetic concerns.”

Among the nine steps recommended are the removal of the station’s canopy, the raising of the wall screening the station from six to nine feet, the addition of brick veneer to match the brick of the PFARS building, landscaping, changes to lighting, and moving some of the town’s diesel trucks to the Harrison Street garage. The combined cost is estimated at $120,000.

Also recommended was exploring the possibility of making repairs to the
fueling facility at the public works site on River Road, which is currently non-functioning. But the tendency of that location to flood during severe storms is a drawback, the Committee found. “While it is too remote to require all vehicles to fuel there, increases time demands on employees, and increases emissions and fuel usage, some vehicles could fuel there, especially those which, during their ordinary  performance of their municipal duties, pass close to this location,” reads the report.

Councilman Dwaine Williamson was the only member to vote against the recommendation, suggesting that relocating all vehicles to the fueling station at the River Road location might be worth further study.

In her opening remarks, Mayor Liz Lempert stressed the “horrible irony” of needing a greater capacity to store fuel [from 4,000 to 6,000 gallons] to deal with the storms caused by climate change, when the town hopes to convert to all-electric vehicles in the next decade.

The report says that a rain garden immediately adjacent to the fuel tank will treat surface runoff. Carnahan Place resident Heidi Fichtenbaum, who is on the Princeton Environmental Commission, said she had concerns about stormwater. “It is really important that rain gardens are properly engineered for what is needed,” she said.

Responding to concerns about emissions and other health issues, the Princeton Board of Health reviewed concerns “and determined that federal Environmental Protection Agency standards set a much higher threshold for restricting siting of facilities (stations with 3.5 million gallons dispensed annually) than is applicable in this case (150,000 gallons annually),” according to the report.

One resident commented, “I still think there is a real health problem for anybody in the area. There are definite health threats to fueling stations, no matter how small.”

Lempert said an implementation plan will be drafted and brought back to Council at the December 16 meeting.