Waste transfer station loses fight for permit

Springfield group opposed $2.5 million development.

The $2.5 million solid waste transfer station planned for West Leffel Lane will not move forward in that location.

The city’s Board of Zoning Appeals disagreed with city staff members and voted unanimously to deny an application for a permit for the development in front more than 130 people on Wednesday night at the City Hall Forum.

Many residents who attended the approximately 3½-hour meeting held signs that read “No Trash Transfer Recycling Station.” They applauded as board chair Fred Tiffany announced the conditional use permit had been denied.

The 10.92-acre site proposed by Recycle Clark County LLC is near the United Parcel Service building, 500 W. Leffel Lane.

“We respect the process,” said Kevin Dewey, the co-owner of Recycle Clark County LLC. “It’s fair. The conditional use criteria is very subjective and open to perception and public opinion. Like I’ve said before, we want to socially responsible, but not at the expense of anyone else. The testimony was strong. It was very enlightening and eye-opening. I’ve stated before, if it was going in my backyard, I’d want to know all the facts as well. Unfortunately, it’s hard to explain something to someone who already has an open … fear of it.”

The facility would separate recyclable materials from trash and would replace a similar transfer station in Vandalia that is closing. It would create 12 to 14 full-time jobs that pay between $10 and $20 per hour. The facility would see approximately 12 to 15 trucks per day at first, but as many as 50 in the future, according to developers.

City staff had recommended approval of the development with specific provisions, including all waste handling activity be limited to the area 200 feet south of the creek that runs through the property and that the wooded area remain as a buffer between the residential area to the north.

The location was already zoned for general manufacturing, according to Bryan Heck, the city’s planning and zoning administrator. A completely enclosed solid waste transfer station is also a permitted conditional use for general manufacturing.

The property sits 140 feet from the nearest residential property in the Southgate neighborhood. The facility was expected to be approximately 24,000 square feet. Developers were planning to keep three to four acres of woods behind the facility as a buffer zone.

Mike Snoddy of Recycle Clark County told board members he also planned to add an odor neutralizing system for the development. The developers planned to open with just one shift but could add a second shift in the future. Regarding traffic, Snoddy said, all trucks under their control would be instructed to use main thoroughfares. He also said the development would make up a small percentage of the traffic currently circulating through the area, based on numbers provided by the Clark County-Springfield Transportation Coordinating Committee.

The neighborhood has been opposed to the planned site since it was announced last fall. Residents repeated several concerns at the meeting, including odor, noise and traffic concerns, as well as how economic development may be impacted in the area. They also believe the development would decrease property values.

Dale Henry, a former Springfield mayor and the president of the Southern Gateway Neighborhood Association, said a recent study showed waste recycling centers are placed in low-to-moderate income areas because of cheap land and low opposition. He presented board members with approximately 900 petitions signed by those opposing the planned location.

He said residents are not against the project but oppose the location. In the last decade, the neighborhood has attempted to attract new business to the south side. While improvements have been made, they’re still pressing for developments that will improve the quality of life in the area, he said.

Ronald Logan, the pastor at Greater Grace Temple, 380 W. Leffel Lane, said “this would not be happening” if the development were to be planned in the Roscommon or Ridgewood neighborhoods on the north side of town.

Logan believes there are places “more suitable” for a waste transfer station to be built.

“The question is: Would you want to live next to a waste station yourself?” Logan said. “Or raise your children next to a dump that separates trash? Who would want to buy a home or build a park near a trash station? Why should we be made to fight to keep something potentially hazardous away from the place we call home?”

After hearing testimony from the applicant and concerned citizens, the board deliberated for nearly an hour. The board uses seven criteria for granting conditional use permits and could not determine whether the development would cause extra noise and odor, as well as whether it could be detrimental to the economic welfare of the community.

Tiffany initially announced the board would deliberate behind closed doors, but board members opted to deliberate in public in order to be transparent. Quasi-judicial boards have the right to convene behind closed doors because they are not regulated by the Sunshine Act, according to the Ohio Administrative Code.

Developers also have been in contact with city officials about alternate locations. Developers have also spoken with another county about possibly relocating the planned solid waste transfer station.

County commissioners voted to support the project as part of the Clark County Solid Waste District’s waste management plan last December.

The permit did not have to be approved by the city commission. All five commissioners had indicated their opposition to the planned location.

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