2010-11-27 / News

Trustees to decide on landfill zoning Dec. 6

By Charles Prince

MILLERSPORT - It was standing room only November 18 as Walnut Township Trustees held their public hearing on whether to grant a zoning change to allow Jerry and Barbara Mock operate a construction and demolition debris landfill just west of Ohio 37.

The hearing is the next to last step of a zoning rerun. Some 30 months ago, trustees unanimously approved rezoning some 62 acres from I-1 (Light Industrial) to 1-2 (General Industrial). The Mock’s original request was framed as correcting a mistake made by the township zoning inspector and as a boost to economic development. Little was said about a C&DD landfill, except acknowledging that a feasibility study was being done.. Those landfill plans moved rapidly with the Fairfield Department of Health issuing a 2009 license in December 2008 for a 34.8 acre landfill reaching a height of 120 feet. That license was renewed last December for 2010.

Neighbors challenged the 2008 rezoning, first by seeking a referendum and later requesting a court injunction. The Mocks successfully challenged the referendum, but lost in court when Judge Richard E. Berens found defects in their original application and the township’s procedures. An injunction has maintained the I-1 zoning which doesn’t permit a C&DD landfill.

Two routes are being pursued to get the landfill built and in operation. The Mocks have appealed Berens’ decision, claiming 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 other route is refiling for the zoning change.

This time the landfill issue is front and center. If the property is rezoned to I-2, the landfill will be built. So far that focus hasn’t aided their application. While the staff of the Fairfield County Planning Commission recommended approval, the Commission itself rejected that advice by a 13-2 vote, with two abstentions. The next stop was the Walnut Township Zoning Commission which unanimously recommended that zoning not be changed after conducting its own public hearing.

Last Thursday’s hearing opened with the applicant’s presentation. That was followed by public comments, limited to five minutes per person. Next was a rebuttal opportunity for the applicant and questions from trustees.

Attorney Carrie Lott, representing the Mocks and their Walnut C&DD, LLC, said the property is “uniquely suited for a C&DD facility.” “Mature trees line the perimeter of the property,” she added. “I-2 fits in with the character of the neighborhood.”

Lott said the facility will be open to the public, but will primarily serve Micro Construction which is owned by the Mock’s sons. Hours will be 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. The landfill will be developed in two-acre phases. “All debris will be inspected,” Lott promised. Debris will be covered with a non-combustible material such as dirt.

“It is a legitimate business whose services are desperately needed in this area,” Lott said. “It will be beneficial to the township.” She told trustees the RPC staff recommendation is the one to consider since “they are land planners.” Lott added that disposal fees could generate $8,000-$10,000 a year for the township and $6,000-$8,000 for the county.

Neighbor Martin Lohne said it’s not a good introduction to Fairfield County, while noting that accidents can happen and operating hours can change. JoAnn Lohne questioned whether it is really recycling C&DD waste now. “It seems to cycle in, but not cycle out.”

Rose Cocanour, who lives about a quarter mile away on Canal Road, said, “We can hear the sound from our house already.” Farmer Roger Wolfe added, “We have a tremendous aquifer below that area.” Roger Parsons, of Washington Courthouse, owns 157 acres directly east of the Mocks. He said it is an environmentally sensitive area for water. He asked where the waste would be coming from, while noting the present of the rail line.

Karl Grube, who lives on Canal Road, said they didn’t come here to live next to a dump. Another Canal Road resident, Scott Howes, said Ohio EPA has told the Village of Baltimore to move their water wells west if the landfill is built. “How can we move our wells? he asked. “We need to consider what we’re going to have to suffer for their benefit,” Beth Howes said.

Canal Road resident Allen Turnbull said people are starting to notice the “eyesore” on Ohio 37. He’s considered about the adverse impact on neighbors and the township.

Liz Groves, who lives on Ohio 37, is “concerned about our water and quality of life.” “The noise is there now,” Groves said. “It will only increase. It will turn the area into a dead zone.”

Ron and Irene DiPaulo are the closest neighbors. Their lawsuit led to the injunction maintaining I-1 zoning. Irene noted that all other businesses in the area conduct their activities inside enclosed buildings. “We have to think about the future in this,” she added. “It (landfill) will be the second highest point in Walnut Township.” Ron noted that the permit specifically says it doesn’t override local regulations. He told trustees, “The vote is here. You guys (trustees) have the say.” The aquifer under the site is one of the top five in the state, Ron said. “This water flows all the way down to Cincinnati. There are many bands of sand running thru there.”

Bobby Slater said the property generates very little real estate tax and the financial benefit is very small. “Hit us with a tenth of a mill to come up with $10,000,” he told trustees. “You have to take care of these neighbors.

Township resident Sally Mc- Crady said legislation in 2005 ordered Ohio EPA to draft new C&DD rules. That process is stalled with more stringent draft rules released in 2008.

She added that the Mocks are suing her for more than $125,000, claiming that she told others that they were going to operate a sanitary landfill on the site and bring in trash from out of state. That suit was filed October 8. She explicitly denied making such claims.

The DiPaulo’s son, Dennis, said, “$500,000 over 50 years is a pittance. There are so many reasons not to do it.” He cited the massive aquifer under the site. His wife, Jessica, said, “Fifty years to use this land and never use it again?”

Lott presented a short rebuttal. She said the facility will be very heavily regulated by Oho EPA. But laughter greeted her contention that asbestos and lead won’t go into the facility.

Trustee Terry Horn asked a number of questions. He asked the Mocks what would likely be rejected. Rusty Mock said furniture would be rejected. When Horn asked about Chinese drywall, Jerry Mock declined to say whether it would be rejected and handed the question off to Lott. She said they will have an ongoing relationship with Ohio EPA to address these types of issues.

On his questions about inspection procedures, Rusty Mock said, “Everything is visually inspected.” When asked how he could tell if wood trim had lead paint, Rusty Mock said the demolition contractor is responsible for lead paint and asbestos.

Horn’s question about training for inspectors was tossed around like a hot potato. Lott referred it to Rusty, but Jerry Mock tossed it back to her. Lott said she didn’t know if inspectors need certification or not. “The Mocks have access to engineers,” she said. “It is a very heavily regulated industry.” When asked how the operation will be monitored, Lott said, “It should be a non-concern due to the oversight of Ohio EPA and the health department.” She said they conduct frequent unannounced inspections, but was unable to say how often such inspections would occur.

Trustees Sonny Dupler and Ralph Zollinger didn’t have any questions. Trustees have scheduled a special meeting for 7 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 6, to make their decision. Two votes are required to approve or deny the rezoning application.

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