A Virginia energy company looking to build a natural gas compressor station in Myersville may have to look elsewhere after the town council rejected the company’s proposal, saying it did not meet zoning requirements.
The five-member Myersville council voted unanimously Wednesday to deny the proposal by Richmond, Va.-based Dominion Transmission to build the compressor station on property at the corner of Milt Summers Road and Md. 17.
The action leaves the decision in the hands of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is expected to rule no later than early December.
The Myersville council also voted unanimously that the proposed project presented a hazard to public health and safety, that its noise would likely create a nuisance and that it was inconsistent with the intentions of the zoning for the area where it would be built. That area was intended to foster business and commercial development, rather than be used for industrial purposes.
The town’s planning commission previously recommended rejecting the proposal.
The fact that the Dominion project would take up one of the town’s most marketable tracts of land seemed to especially resonate with the council.
“Our resources for this type of economic development are limited in this town,” Councilman Mark Flynn said.
After the vote, councilmen Gary DeMoss and Mark Hinkle both said the proposal didn’t fit what the town intended when it set up the Highway Employment Overlay zone, which was to attract commercial businesses.
Councilman Brett Bidle agreed.
“It just wasn’t meant for this specific property,” he said.
The regulatory commission will have the final say over the project.
On July 16, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources sent a letter to the regulatory commission saying it needed more time to evaluate the environmental impact of the project laid out in an environmental assessment done by FERC staff.
The Myersville site is in an area near several state parks and Civil War battlefields, as well as a section of the Appalachian Trail, making the potential impacts of the project very important, according to the letter.
The compressor station would help push natural gas through a pipeline, similar to a pump in a water line, Mark Viani, a lawyer for Dominion, testified Wednesday.
Viani said the station would only operate about four months out of the year, likely winter months when demand for gas to provide heat for homes is highest.
Residential demand for natural gas in Maryland has increased about 39 percent in the past 15 to 20 years, he said.
But Myersville resident Rick Nord said he was worried about what the effects would be if there were an accident at the station.
The town’s designated emergency center is its Municipal Center, which is within the two-mile radius recommended for evacuation during an emergency at such a facility, he said.
“To me, it’s all about the safety of the town in a disaster,” he said.
The Dominion proposal has drawn sharp criticism from some Myersville residents.
Only two residents of the approximately 20 onlookers who attended Wednesday night spoke, but more than a dozen expressed their opposition to the project when it came before the planning commission in June.
A rally before the May hearing, at which the council referred the matter to the planning commission, drew about 110 people, according to organizers.
Ted Cady, secretary of Myersville Citizens for a Rural Community — a group that opposed the Dominion project — said he was pleased with the council’s decision.
“This is the first step,” he said.
Cady said he hoped FERC will take the information that’s presented to it into consideration when making its decision.
The minutes of the meeting and the council’s findings will be formally prepared and sent to FERC for its consideration, Town Planner Brad Dyjak said.
Dominion spokesman Dan Donovan said the company would wait for that document, which will lay out the town’s formal reasons for its decision, before the company decides how to proceed.
The company believes the compressor station is important to the state and the town, and it intends to pursue it, he said.
But Donovan said Dominion has a lot of respect for the local process that came to a close Wednesday.
“It’s obvious everybody did their homework on the issues,” he said.