April 06, 2020

Draft landfill ordinance under review

OLD TOWN – A request from the Juniper Ridge Landfill Advisory Committee prompted a short discussion at Monday night’s City Council meeting to update councilors on the draft ordinance dealing with expansions at the facility.

“There is a draft ordinance which is not ready for public review and discussion at this point, but is being reviewed internally,” City Attorney Bob Miller said Monday.

In a letter to the council, committee members expressed “grave concern that it appears that very little progress has been made regarding a new zoning ordinance relation to landfills.”

The state bought the landfill site, formerly the West Old Town Landfill, from Georgia-Pacific Corp. for $26 million and chose Casella Waste Systems Inc. to operate it.

The Department of Environmental Protection approved the facility and its operation in April 2004.

The three-way West Old Town Landfill deal among the state, G-P and Casella was designed to keep G-P’s Old Town paper mill open when it was faced with closure in 2003 and to address the state’s waste disposal problem.

Despite that attempt, G-P closed the mill March 16, and the state unveiled last week the names of four companies interested in redeveloping the site for uses other than making pulp and paper.

As part of the original landfill deal, Casella is required to submit an expansion proposal for the landfill to the State Planning Office on Feb. 1, 2007.

“We feel it is imperative that a city landfill ordinance is in place prior to the developer preparing his plans for the expansion,” advisory committee Chairman Peter DuFour wrote in the Sept. 26 letter to the council.

“It is our belief that should the developer submit his expansion proposal on existing ordinances [which are non-existent], this city would be unable to implement controls to protect itself and more importantly the immediate neighborhood surrounding the landfill.”

Miller explained that a 30-plus-page draft ordinance has been created, but added that the city’s authority to regulate landfills has been pre-empted by the Legislature to a large degree.

The city can regulate expansions as long as the regulations aren’t more stringent than those of the state Department of Environmental Protection.

In the draft ordinance, the city is requesting that it does its own review immediately after the DEP’s review.

The city also has an obligation to allow Casella to review the ordinance early in the process, but isn’t yet at that point, Miller said.

He noted that the draft contains language to make the ordinance effective retroactively from the time it’s approved by the council.

“That doesn’t mean we should just delay this process,” Miller said. “We need to get it done.”

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