Spokane Journal of Business

Whitley Fuel hits snags in plan to rebuild

Zoning laws ban concern from installing storage tanks in new warehouse

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Whitley Fuel LLC, of Okanogan, Wash., says it plans to rebuild its fuel distribution center warehouse here that was destroyed in a spectacular fire last summer, but first must work out key elements of the project with city officials.

Brian Whitley, the companys part-owner, says Whitley Fuel hopes to build an 8,500-square-foot structure to replace the 6,000-square-foot warehouse destroyed in the fire, which reportedly inflicted a total of $20 million in damages to the fuel center and nearby properties.

The warehouse had housed Whitley Fuels lubricant products, Whitley says.

When the company submitted its original proposal for the rebuild project to city officials during a predevelopment meeting in November, it said it wanted to add tanks inside the new warehouse that would hold the lubricants, he says.

It didnt have tanks in the old warehouse.

City officials told Whitley Fuel representatives at the meeting that installing additional tanks wasnt permitted under the zoning laws for the site, located at 2733 N. Pittsburg, says Tami Palmquist, a city planner. Under those regulations, high-impact uses, such as tanks containing hazardous materials, arent allowed within 600 feet of single-family residences, Palmquist says. The distribution center, although located on light-industrial land, lies within 250 feet of homes, she says.

Whitley Fuel was allowed to have tanks there before the fire because the company had been operating at the site longer than the zoning laws had been in place and thus had grandfathered rights, she says. Whitley Fuel is allowed to operate the tanks that survived the fire, but cant add any more, she says.

Theres no problem with the building, just the tanks, Palmquist says.

Whitley says the company is trying to get the final determinations on its requirements for the project so that it can submit a revised proposal.

Whitley Fuel included the new tanks in its proposal because it thought they would be a safer way to store the lubricants, but will remove them from the project if necessary, Whitley says.

The overall goal is going to be the same, Whitley says. It just depends on what we have to do to fall within the rules.

The company hopes to work out the zoning issues soon so that it can submit a second proposal within the next month and obtain a building permit before spring, he says. The company doesnt have an estimated cost for the project yet, he says.

Spokane architect Martin J. Hill is designing the warehouse, and a contractor will be selected closer to the start date for the project, he says.

Whitley Fuel has 10 fuel tanks at the distribution center and doesnt plan to move its distribution center just to be able to put tanks in the rebuilt warehouse, he says.

Weve looked at some other properties, but tanks are a valuable asset and it would be cost-prohibitive to move them, Whitley says.

Whitley Fuel has fuel distribution centers across Eastern Washington, but its two main installations are located here and in Okanogan, he says.

Contact Emily Proffitt at (509) 344-1265 or via e-mail at emilyp@spokanejournal.com.

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