You may have seen and heard the media attention surrounding a proposed, large propane tank that will be built next to the Keg on Harbour Drive.
There has been some negative response to the idea, and this is understandable. Many people are frustrated that there are chain restaurants on our historic harbourfront to begin with. They are large and dominate the space. Adding a huge propane tank sounds like yet another step away from beautification.
But here's why I ultimately voted with the majority in this instance.
The owner of the three restaurants met with Council and staff twice. At the first meeting (which I was unable to attend), councillors and staff expressed discomfort with the idea. They told the proponent to go back and find alternate solutions.
I was able to attend the second meeting, and the owner was accompanied by an engineer from North Atlantic Petroleum who could speak to the options that were available. Here's what I learned.
The Keg uses a number of "small" tanks which are concealed by a brick wall. If the other restaurants were to use this type of tank, there would not be enough room for all of them (over 20, I believe) because space is extremely limited in that area (I'll speak to this in a moment).
So the next option is to combine the required volume of propane in one tank. This presents two options: a 2000 gallon tank and a 5000 gallon tank. We asked "Why not go with the smaller of the two?"
The answer is that the 2000 gallon tank is not as reliable as a 5000 gallon tank during a situation such as a power outage. If the power goes out, the propane stops, and the day of sales is lost - and potentially hundreds of customers walk away disappointed. A 5000 gallon tank has the pressure required to sustain usage for a period of time while the restaurant waits for servicing.
We suggested that this is probably just a risk of doing business, but were then told that the 2000 gallon tank, while skinnier in diameter, is almost the same height as the 5000 gallon tank. Thus, we have pretty much the same issue we started with.
We asked if the tank could be put elsewhere on the site, and if it could oriented on its side instead of jutting into the air. This brought us back to the issue of "not enough room."
This is where the frustration comes. If the restaurant weren't so big - and had considered this obvious requirement up front - we would probably not need this tank, in this configuration.
But this is the point: the building is pretty well complete, and the only option is to put up a large tank to ensure that these restaurants actually run. Otherwise we'll just have empty buildings.
This is far from an ideal situation, and I wish I had been involved in this ages ago so I could have helped ensure better decisions were made. But I am a new councillor and I'm making decisions based on the reality of day.
The good news is that the City is making great strides toward involving the public in our planning and decision making with a new approach to public engagement. And that's where my energy is focused.
Here are some renderings of the tank that we were shown: