As soon as it was announced that a company was seeking a special zoning exception to develop a water filling station for tanker trucks serving the natural gas well drilling industry on Route 188 just west of Jefferson, we knew the opposition would be out in force.
We were not wrong. Last week, the Jefferson-Morgan Multi-Municipal Zoning Hearing Board denied a request from Bell’s Bridge LLP to develop the property, which was earlier prepared as a recreational vehicle park, for a station to fill water tanker trucks serving EQT’s natural gas wells.
Before the hearing was held June 24, more than 100 people signed petitions opposing the plan, many expressing safety concerns. And those who attended the hearing expanded on those concerns, claiming there would be increased truck traffic on Route 188 and that the truck filling station is within 300 yards of Jefferson-Morgan High School and in an area, they claimed, where sight distance for trucks entering and exiting the highway is limited.
We respect their argument, and other opposing views expressed at the hearing, among them that of Donna Furnier, superintendent of Jefferson-Morgan School District, who said the district currently has problems with people leaving the school pulling out onto the highway, and that restrictions on the station’s use during school hours would not be effective because school facilities are often used at night and on weekends for various events and activities.
Also, Alan Rafail, a driving instructor at the school who also lives on Route 188 west of the site, said he often sees vehicles passing illegally in the area near Wilson Forest Products, just west of the proposed station.
Rafail also spoke of students he teaches who have yet to gain experience on the highway who, if the station were permitted, would have to share the road with large tanker trucks.
Equally as compelling was a position put forth by Gary Filbey, the property owner and a partner in Bells Bridge, who said tanker trucks already are using the highway and that he doesn’t believe the station will increase traffic on the road.
He said it may help lessen the number of tanker trucks through Jefferson since tanker trucks serving EQT wells east of Jefferson will no longer have to go through town to get water.
But in spite of Filbey’s explanation, the request was denied, and we wonder if the decision was based solely on the merits of the issues or whether the number of those opposing the request was just too high to overlook.