A public hearing is reportedly set later this month on a request for a special use permit to allow a gas station and car wash to be built in Howell Township within a wellhead protection area, with at least one resident determined to try and stop it.
Todd Lekander of Howell Mason LLC, owner and operator of the Mugg & Bopp chain of gas station/convenience stores in Livingston County, is requesting to construct a Mugg & Bopps station at the corner of Mason and Burkhardt roads, which is within a wellhead protection area. Those areas are defined by the Environmental Protection Agency as “the surface and subsurface area surrounding a water well or wellfield, supplying a public water system, through which contaminants are reasonably likely to move toward and reach such water well or wellfield.”
However, the current township ordinance prohibits such a use within 300 feet of such an area.
Duane Cox lives on Groveland Drive, near where the station would be built and tells GIGO News, he is adamantly opposed to allowing it for fear of potential contamination of residents drinking water.
“It’s what the Wellhead Protection Area was created for,” he said. “And once you open Pandora’s Box for this gas station, well then (Lekander) is going to want to go to the other end of this well protection site and put another gas station. I mean, he’s got one down at Fowlerville Road and Mason, and he’s got one there at D-19 and Mason. So he wants one every so many miles apart. If they (the ordinances) say no gas, it should be no gas station.”
A request for comment on the plan was sent to Township Supervisor Mike Coddington, but was not returned.
The proposal was originally rejected by the township’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) in 2021 despite Lekander, with support from Brent LaVanway with Boss Engineering, speaking about the safety of the modern gas tanks and pumping system that he planned to use at the location. LaVanway said the Township ordinance prohibiting stations within 300 feet of wellhead protection areas was outdated “due to the improvement in safety regulation for gasoline stations, and that this creates a hardship on the owner…”. Despite that, all 17 members of the public who attended the meeting spoke in opposition to the plan and the township’s ZBA ended up voting 4-0, with one abstention, to deny the request.
Then, at the Howell Township Board meeting on March 20, 2023, the Board discussed a request to change the wording of its ordinance to allow a gas station to be sited inside the wellhead protection area for the Marion-Howell-Oceola-Genoa Water Authority (MHOG) as long as MHOG approved.
Among the conditions that had been proposed by MHOG Director Greg Tatara were double-walled tanks and quarterly site visits/inspections performed by the Authority’s Wellhead Consultant and paid for by the gas station owner. Those inspections would continue as long as the well head protection area exists or the site remains a potential source of contamination. There would also be a review of the fueling stations regulatory required quarterly reports, including any maintenance records.
Although the Board rejected that request, the meeting minutes indicate that Township Treasurer Jonathan Hohenstein said he had discussed the issue with Tatara, who had been working with other municipalities in the wellhead protection area to try to get similar ordinances in place.
Then at their May 8, 2023 meeting, the Howell Township board voted to approve sending to its Planning Commission a draft wellhead protection ordinance from Marion Township that Cox says could potentially allow gas stations within the Wellhead Protection Area.
“What’s going to happen, God forbid, if there’s a major contamination spill or a tanker truck goes up? Who’s going to cover that?,” he asked, adding that even just minor spills can have an adverse effect over time.
“You know, someone’s filling up the gas tank and they’re overflowing and didn’t catch it,” he said. “Now we have remediation of maybe five gallons or 25 gallons of fuel going onto the ground on a rainy day or a snowy day. Where is that water going? We are in a high water table area with little ground earth filtration. It won’t take much to contaminate a massive area very quickly if it happens. And then who’s going to cover it? You put a gas station in a wellhead protected area and hedge your bets that you’re not going to have an accident.”
Meanwhile, a mailed notice was received by several residents in the area that the Howell Township Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, August 22, 2023 at 6:30 p.m. at the Howell Township offices on Byron Road to consider a special use permit by Lekander for the station.
However, no such notice can be found on the township’s website. A picture of it is displayed, however, on a Facebook page created by Cox to inform residents about the proposal.
The mailed notice states that members of the public can also submit written comments to the Zoning Administrator at firstname.lastname@example.org any time prior to 5 p.m. on Monday, August 21, 2023.
A request for comment was also sent to that address, but has yet to be returned.