The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Thursday, January 09, 2003

Zoning change sought for rigs with uranium
The McCracken County Fiscal Court will decide if a farm plot can be used by tractor-trailers hauling uranium hexaflouride cylinders as a layover.

By Matt Sanders msanders@paducahsun.com--270.575.8650

Owners of a seven-acre tract are going to ask the McCracken County Fiscal Court for a zoning change so tractor-trailers hauling uranium hexafluoride cylinders have someplace to lay over while the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant is closed to deliveries.

And because uranium hexafluoride is a hazardous material containing low-level radiation, opposition by local homeowners at the meeting Jan. 27 will be vocal.

“Our main concern is safety,” said Kelsie Don Travis, who does not live near the tract but acted as a spokesman for concerned landowners. “We don’t want to be near hazardous materials regardless of how they are packaged.”

The vacant lot at issue is 800 feet north of U.S. 60 on Mayfield-Metropolis Road. It is owned by O.K. Inc. of Airway Heights, Wash., a trucking firm near Spokane.

Travis attended Wednesday’s meeting of the planning commission, which voted 3-2 to recommend that the fiscal court rezone the tract from agriculture to heavy industry to create a holdover site for rigs hauling cylinders to the plant. Kenneth Foertsch of O.K. Inc. requested the zoning change.

Although the fiscal court’s next meeting is Monday, the planning commission’s recommendation will be on the Jan. 27 agenda, County Administrator Steve Doolittle said. County commissioners must pass the ordinance twice before it becomes law.

The area near the tract is sparsely populated; the nearest residents are about 1,000 feet away.

“Another fear is that someone may confuse the cylinders with anhydrous ammonia tanks and try to break it open,” Travis said.

The chemical fertilizer is an ingredient in methamphetamine and is often the target of thefts.

Travis also feared that vandals may shoot at the trucks and rupture the cylinders, or that some trucks may be parked in the lot overnight and on weekends.

Other concerns were a decrease in property values, dust and noise pollution from truck traffic, possible groundwater contamination, and long-term degradation of property, Travis said.

Planning Commission Chairman Paul Moore, who voted for the zoning change, said the cylinders pose no more of a threat than an anhydrous ammonia tank in a farmer’s field.

“It is my understanding that this property will be used as a holdover area when drivers get in early, and the drivers have to stay with their trucks,” Moore said. “These are the same trucks that go down 3rd Street, through downtown, on Interstate 24, and on county roads. There is nothing that denies them from pulling over on the side of the road, as long as the roads are not blocked.

“These trucks are licensed and controlled by other agencies that the planning commission does not control.”

The property also would be fenced, Moore said.

Planning commissioner Ann Boatwright was one of the two dissenting votes.

“I think we could find some better areas that do not infringe on rural housing and agriculture,” Boatwright said. “I looked at this request with trepidation. The present zoning of agriculture is adequate for that area. (McCracken County) is short on agricultural land, and there have to be places better for this type of endeavor, like closer to the plant.”

Lisa Emmons and Carolyn Young also voted for the rezoning. Joanne Nelson also voted no.

Moore said he understood the concerns of nearby landowners and felt he had made the right choice.

“In this day ... anything, anywhere, anytime can be a hazardous material,” Moore said. “I’m trying to be reasonable. There can be hazards in anything. I’m not selling anything either way, I just voted my conscience.”