Traverse City Record-Eagle

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January 21, 2014

Public can weigh in on proposed Empire Township facility

TRAVERSE CITY — A proposed propane storage facility in Leelanau County could cut delivery time to the area by nearly an hour.

Matt Stevens, the owner of Buckley-based Stevens Propane, hopes to open a store and propane storage facility on M-72 in Empire Township.

Stevens said the facility would allow him to better serve people in Leelanau and Benzie counties.

“We’ve got a lot of customers up in Leelanau County, and it’s a long ways from Buckley,” Stevens said. “We can serve people more efficiently from up there and we’d like to be closer.”

Stevens hopes to put his facility on a 4.5-acre parcel on M-72 in the area that constitutes the “gateway” into Empire Township. It would include a store, a 30,000-gallon propane storage tank, and an area to store between 100 and 500 gallons of propane in residential-sized tanks.

“We’re going to bring increased competition,” Stevens said. “Right now they are fairly limited on choices, but competition breeds better customer service.”

Propane provider Crystal Flash has a facility in Northport, and Amerigas has storage sites in Cedar and along M-72 just west of Traverse City.

The proposal will be the subject of an Empire Township Planning Commission meeting tonight. Commission chair Dick Figura said the commission could decide whether to approve the proposal.

“The gateway is significant because this is the gateway into Empire Township,” Figura said. “We’re looking for not just commercial uses but other uses, and we’re concerned about screening these uses from the highway.”

Stevens would need to put a vegetative border between the facility and the road. He would not change existing, vacant buildings on the site, but would add a propane storage tank that’s removed from the road, according to a plan filed Nov. 8.

Stevens hopes to have the store up and running by the spring, but if planning commissioners do not approve the project today, he could have longer to wait, Figura said. Three of the commission’s members will be out of town until April, so delays could put the project on hold for months.

The meeting will be held tonight at 6 p.m. in the Empire Township hall.

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