Proposal to Build Natural Gas Facility in Roanoke Has Some Worried

Roanoke, VA - A Missouri-based energy company is looking to open a propane gas storage facility in Roanoke. But the idea has some in the neighborhood gearing up for a fight.

Inergy Services is looking to spend more than $3.5 million on the project a few hundred feet from the 26.6 mile marker on the Roanoke River Greenway. At one time, that was the site of a large Native American village.

If Inergy has its way, it will soon hold five massive storage tanks, including two 90,000 gallon tanks for butane.

Mark Powell is president of the Southeast Action Forum and sees no compromise on the issue because of a public safety issue. A residential neighborhood sits just behind.

"People are concerned about the health effects of the catastrophic events that could happen. People are also concerned that they've been in the dark on this issue," said Powell.

That's an issue that came to light as the re-zoning application was filed. Right now, city planners are waiting on more information that will go into a pending re-zoning hearing before any recommendations are made.

"It is an industrial area but it is also located, like most of our industrial areas, in fairly close proximity to occupied residential areas," said Chris Chittum with the city of Roanoke.

To illustrate the concern, Powell points to a YouTube video where a tanker, 1/11th the size of the largest storage tank, explodes. One of several future scenarios neighbors here aren't interested in taking a chance on.

"Just what this entire area is going to look like in decades to come. Could this just be the beginning of larger, heavy industrial development that could have impacts on the neighborhood?" said Powell.

The company is seeking to rezone the property from light industrial to heavy. That hearing, originally scheduled for August, has been moved to September. Inergy filed for a continuance Thursday.