Company downsizing raises issues

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One reason Fannon Heating and Cooling of Alexandria carries the WCU series, Thru-The-Wall Split System air conditioner, is because that is the type of air conditioner used in the townhouses next door in the Old Town Village neighborhood. Fannon carries this air conditioner, which isnt used in many Alexandria houses, because of the proximity and neighborly appeal Thomas Fannon is trying to establish in that area of Duke Street.

The long-time city business, in operation since the 1800s and at the current location on Duke Street since the 1940s, is now seeing some changes with part of their operation moving to Gainesville. The remainder of their retail business is being operated out of offices in the 1200 block of Duke Street. The Fannon land in the 1300 block of Duke St. has been sold to Van Metre which will build 58 condominiums. Work is now underway to clear the land for this project.

Site alterations in the 1200 block were stopped when residents of Old Town Village got word of the plan and contacted city officials, who are now requesting a larger site plan to include the installation of three tanks and streetscape additions for curb appeal. According to Tom Fannon, construction has stopped while the plans are in the works, but with a business that specializes in air conditioners, heaters and heating oil, the business comes first and the plans are coming along slowly.

According to Fannon, They want it all in one site plan. Its in the works but not in the citys hands yet.

The tanks and landscaping plans are one concern of Pamela Kolesnik, an Old Town Village resident. Kolesnik doesnt like the idea of three tanks on the property with trucks refueling close to the neighborhood tot lot. Its a general eyesore to Kolesnik and others in the community. She says that other operations, such as dismembering old tanks is not something that should be going on near the tot lot.

Theyre cutting them up with industrial saws, said Kris Kolesnik. Right near our tot lot, added Pam. She said she was under the impression that all the tanks and oil were going to Fannons Gainesville location, and the site was going to exclusively house the retail operations.

The tanks
That isnt so, according to Fannon, and this is reflected in a letter dated Nov. 3, 2003, from the City of Alexandrias Department of Planning and Zoning. Fannon said that their fuel storage in Alexandria has dropped 90 percent, and 450,000 gallons of oil was moved from their facilities at 1300 Duke Street to their Gainesville facility, and only 48,000 gallons of oil will be kept in the two tanks at 1200 Duke Street. An additional 8,000 gallon tank was added to hold gasoline and diesel for their trucks as well, and this was approved by the city, according to Fannon.

Faroll Hamer, the director at the City of Alexandrias Department of Planning and Zoning, confirmed the approval. The third tank is for an accessory use. We approved that as a legitimate accessory use, Hamer said.

Dan Davis, another resident of Old Town Village, noted the absence of a sheeting and shoring permit, another part of the site planning procedure. If such a permit was issued, Fannon would have to contact all the neighbors within a certain distance, and this did not happen, Davis said. We didnt have knowledge of it until they were putting tanks in the ground, he said.

Fannon said no sheeting and shoring permit was required, and they are in compliance with the laws. Everything is right on that project, Fannon said.
In another issue, Kolesnik questioned the use of tie down straps with the three tanks which she did not see when they installed the tanks, but Fannon claims they were used. He said that he did not contact the residents for things like that. The city inspectors monitor the tie down straps, and other requirements. You think Im going to put in tanks with no tie down straps? Fannon said.
Kris Kolesnik petitioned City Council in June to make Fannon go through the special use permit process to find out exactly what is proposed and provide a chance for the public to comment on it.

Site plans
Citizens met with city planners on May 21, discussing the Fannon Oil Co., and the site plans. There were no promises made, said Kolesnik. Fannon claims he was barred from attending the meeting, and would gladly reveal every step of his project. When he called Kolesnik, she wouldnt talk to me, he contended.

Hamer attended the meeting and noted the incomplete site plan. Were waiting for a plan, she said. Hamer noted that Fannon has indicated they would do all the things they said that is in the zoning letter. Plan requirements include information on an operational management plan, curb cuts and circulation, the loading rack for pumping oil into trucks, truck fuel pump, a screen wall along South Payne Street, landscaping along Duke Street and S. Payne, and possibly on the wall that separates the Fannon site and the townhouses, according to the meeting minutes described in a city memo dated May 24, 2007. Fannon is aware of this. They want it all in one site plan, thats underway, he said.

Kolesnik was also concerned that the gas tanks could be a target of terrorism as well. Hamel noted that this level of terrorism threat is not only at this location. There are gas stations all over the country that back up to residential units, she said.

Since Fannon Oil has operated in the City of Alexandria since the 1800s, and at the current location on Duke Street since the 1940s, certain operations were grandfathered in as far as city regulations are concerned, Hamer said. They have met all the requirements of the law, Hamer added.

City Council member Paul Smedberg thought the availability of information was a problem as well. He was even under the idea that all of the oil and fuel was headed to Gainesville. If there are changes underway they need to be very clearly articulated, he said.

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