Towering fuel storage tanks that dominated Medford's southerly skyline near Stewart Avenue for decades were removed Thursday, prompting passers-by to stop and watch.

Towering fuel storage tanks that dominated Medford's southerly skyline near Stewart Avenue for decades were removed Thursday, prompting passers-by to stop and watch.

The tan and red tanks, part of the Grange Co-op's now defunct petroleum plant near south Medford, were decommissioned last year.

The Grange Co-op used the tanks to store various types of fuel, from heating fuel to diesel, which it delivered to customers until last year.

Grange Co-op Petroleum Operations Manager Bill Christie said the tanks were a casualty of Measure 67, which increased corporate taxes to help shore up the state's budget. Passed by voters in January 2010, it also set a minimum tax on gross sales for some corporations regardless of profit.

"What happened was, the way the bill was written, when you lose money you still pay taxes," Christie said.

"We weren't really making much off it. It was a very marginal part of our business and our main two drivers that were there were ready to retire. We stuck it out as long as we could for some of the longtime customers, but it was time for it to close."

Christie said customer accounts were taken over by another local fuel delivery company and the old fuel plant is up for sale.

The tanks, in place for decades before the Co-op purchased the property on which they stood in the 1960s, were sold to a company in Washington that plans to put them back into use.

Christie said a significant number of customers were affected when the Co-op ceased fuel delivery but he was unable to provide specific numbers.

The site borders Stewart Meadows, a planned $200 million, 77-acre residential, retail and office project to be developed by Medford-based KOGAP Enterprises.

Tucked between Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad tracks and the existing Stewart Meadows golf course near the intersection of Highway 99 and Stewart Avenue, the project will include more than 100 golf course-view apartment units for seniors, office and retail space and more than 400,000 square feet of commercial space.

The plan has been in the works since May 2006 but has stalled because of the economy and requirements for traffic and impact studies by various local entities.

Christie quipped that the tanks will probably be more noticeable in their absence.

"It will look a little strange because they've been part of the landscape for a long time," he said.

"People who never thought about them being there will probably notice now that they're gone."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffyp76@yahoo.com.