Rezoning process for landfill starts over
MILLERSPORT – Some 30 months ago the Walnut Township Zoning Commission heard an application from Jerry and Barbara Mock to rezone approximately 61 acres just west of Ohio 37 from I-1 (Light Industrial) to I-2 (General Industrial).
Though the basic issue was still the same Monday night, the circumstances are different. Two and half years ago, the rezoning request was framed as correcting a mistake made by the township zoning inspector and as a boost to economic development. Zoning inspector Ralph Reeb originally told the Mocks that I-1 zoning would cover their recycling, roll-off container, and stone yard businesses. Zoning was changed from rural residential to I-1 with the support of some neighbors. Later Reeb told them that I-1 zoning required that these activities be conducted inside enclosed buildings, recommending they seek I-2 zoning to cover their outside activities. While the Mocks did not concede that I-2 is required, they agreed to seek I-2 to accommodate some I-2-type businesses – a propane distributor and metal working shop – that were interested in buying lots along Ohio 37. Those new businesses represented the economic development boost.
Township trustees, with positive recommendations from the Zoning Commission and the Regional Planning Commission, unanimously approved the zoning change in May 2008. There was little mention of the Mocks’ plans for a construction and demolition debris landfill beyond a brief note about a feasibility study for a landfill.
The neighbors immediately to the north – Ron and Irene DiPaolo – were concerned about the landfill possibility. A petition for a referendum on the rezoning was timely filed with sufficient signatures. However, the Board of Elections rejected it after the Mocks challenged it on technical grounds. So the DiPaolos headed to court where Judge Richard E. Berens found defects in the original application and the township’s procedures. An injunction maintained the current I-1 zoning.
The Mocks quickly moved ahead with their landfill plans, receiving a 2009 license in December 2008 from the Fairfield County Health Department for a 34.8 acre landfill reaching a height of 120 feet. That license was renewed last December for 2010.
Two avenues are being pursued to get the landfill built and in operation. The Mocks have appealed Berens’ decision, contending that he should have considered their claim that state law preempts local zoning, that the township complied with time limits and that the other procedural errors did not prejudice the opponents. The preempt claim states that ORC Chapter 3714, which covers the licensing and operation of C&DD landfills, preempts the local zoning ordinance. “Townships have never been, and should not now be, permitted to nullify the technical expertise of the Ohio EPA and its approved health Districts regarding an appropriate location for a C&DD facility,” the appeal states.
The other route is seeking a zoning change from I-1 to I-2. That application was filed last month and was reviewed by the Regional Planning Commission last week. The RPC staff recommended that the Commission support the rezoning. Commission members rejected that advice by a 13-2 vote, with two absentions.
The next step was Monday’s hearing before the township Zoning Commission. This time the landfill is front and center. Attorney Carrie Lott, representing the Mocks and their Walnut C&DD, LLC, said, “it is ready to operate.” The landfill will be built toward the rear of the property with development of about two acres at a time.
“It will be very beneficial to the township,” she added. It will create new jobs and generate “significant” revenue for both the township and county. State law allows a township to impose a fee of up to 4¢ per cubic yard which Lott estimates will raise $400-500,000. The county can collect up to 3¢ per cubic yard, generating $300-400,000. Lott didn’t mention that the revenue totals are over its estimated 50-year life, which works out to just $8-10,000 a year for the township.
She detailed the steps that will be taken to minimize its impact:
• dust control;
• limiting operating hours to 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday;
• natural screening is already in place; and
• providing a closure fund. Both dust control and the clo- sure fund are required by law.
“I-2 fits in with the character of the neighborhood,” she added. “The RPC staff agreed that I-2 zoning is reasonable.”
Lott then turned over the presentation to project engineer David Miller of Weaver Boos Consultants’ Columbus office. “It is a very clayey site,” he reported. Soil boring generally showed permabilities in the 10 -8 range which is “a million times slower” than the 10 -6 standard in Ohio’s regulations. The design, Miller explained, includes a two foot thick recompacted clay liner in the 10 -8 “range,” with a leachate collection layer above the liner. Leachate is the technical term for any water that has come in contact with waste. Some leachate will be recirculated in the landfill to spur decomposition while the rest will be stored in tanks for off-site disposal.
Three wells, perhaps more later, will monitor ground waster quality, Miller said. They will be sampled quarterly for the first year of operation and annually thereafter.
During public comments, Canal Road resident Judith Grube said she thought they were going to be doing recycling. “I’m definitely against a landfill. A landfill doesn’t improve anything.”
The DiPaulos were represented by attorney Charles M. Elsea. “What is good for the Mocks is not good for the township,” he explained. Elsea said the landfill will ultimately be a 120 foot high pyramid with a base the size of 32 football fields. He noted that the trial court accepted an immediate property value loss of $275,000 for the DiPaulos. “This is more of a prosperity killer,” Elsea said. He distributed copies of the Mocks’ appeal brief, tellling commission members that the brief argues “it doesn’t matter a whit what you think” (preemption claim).
Ron DiPaulo hammered away on the failure to get a sanitary permit for the Micro Construction office trailer. “If they won’t put in something small like a septic system why give them 30 acres?” he asked. This comment and others on the same subject later prompted an irritated rebuttal from Jerry Mock. “We have two parcels and one has a licensed septic system (8675 Lancaster-Newark Rd.),” he said. After the health department issued a notice of violation for the underground holding tank at 8585 (Micro office trailer), it was immediately removed. A portable toilet is now provided for customers and employees go to 8675.
“I don’t see anything so harsh as a landfill in the area,” Irene DiPaulo said. “This area has potential…It doesn’t fit in.”
“I will be looking at this out my back window,” Ruth Ann Taylor told the Commission. Her family has owned the farm south of the Mocks for four generations. Sam Weaver, who lives along Ohio 37 north of the Mocks said, “I think it is an eyesore. I was told it was going to be a gravel, mulch and landscaping affair.” He expects it will significantly reduce the value of his home.
Bobby Slater, who lives several miles up Ohio 37, complimented the Mocks for cleaning up the old farmstead. Then he questioned its economic value to the township, noting that the total taxable value of three properties is just $98,000. That’s far less than some single family homes. “You need to take care of these neighbors – our neighbors,” Slater told the Mocks.
Commission members had a number of technical questions, but wanted more time before making their recommendation to trustees. Their next regular meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 19 which follows a 6:45 p.m. public hearing on the proposed revised zoning regulations for the township.
The Commission has 30 days from the hearing to make its recommendation to trustees who in turn have 30 days to hold their own public hearing. Trustees will make the final decision on the rezoning request.