Residents speak against landfill in Albion
MURRAY – Albion and Orleans County have had their fill as a garbage dump, Ted Scharping, a former town supervisor, said during a public hearing this evening.
Scharping was elected to the Town Board in November 1995 to fight Waste Management’s effort to build a new 200-foot-high landfill, dwarfing two existing landfills in the community. The town passed anti-landfilling laws that were upheld in court and prevented Waste Management’s project.
But Scharping said the community still suffers from a landfill legacy.
“The wounds are extensive – still,” Scharping said during a hearing attended by about 125 people at Hickory Ridge Golf Course. “We saw what the dump, an illegally run dump, did to our village. We suffered for years – environmentally, visually, quiet enjoyment and most importantly with property values.”
The issue won’t go away, even though Waste Management was denied a permit from the Town Board and laws were passed to prevent another landfill.
Waste Management, although denied by the town, secured a permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Richard Penfold of Orchard Park claims he has ownership of that state permit. The DEC isn’t convinced and denied his request to renew that permit, saying he didn’t have legal standing.
Penfold has appealed that decision, and that was the focus of the public hearing this evening and a DEC issues conference on Wednesday, beginning at 10 a.m. at Hickory Ridge. Lawyers for Penfold, the DEC and Stop Polluting Orleans County will all address a DEC administrative law judge.
Kim Remley, chairwoman of SPOC, stuck to the issue at hand, whether Penfold has the right to the Waste Management permit. She said he hasn’t satisfied the DEC, and there isn’t a paper trail showing he secured the permit from Waste Management, former site owner Irene Smith, or the bankrupt estate of the Orleans Sanitary Landfill, which operated in Albion until running afoul of the law and going bankrupt in the early 1990s.
Scharping said the community suffered when John and Irene Smith ran OSL, and were fined for taking in too much garbage. The local property values haven’t recovered, with a downward trend especially in the village, said Scharping, long-time real estate broker.
“Any bribes – that’s what I call tipping fees and offers of free garbage – will not compensate for the loss of real property values,” he said. “People in the whole county could be harmed by 5, 10 or 20 percent.”
Another former town supervisor, Judith Koehler, also spoke during the public hearing and told the DEC that the town created a Canal Overlay District in 2002 which forbade landfill development along the canal.
The town and village also worked together on updating a comprehensive plan for land use and development priorities for the community. That plan, adopted in 2012, included a community survey where 75 percent of residents said they “very strongly” or “strongly” opposed more landfills in Albion.
Michael Bonafede, a former Albion Board of Education president, has been a vocal critic of landfill expansion in Albion. He recalled an Oct. 23, 2012 meeting when Penfold presented his plan for assuming Waste Management’s permit and seeking local approval for the project.
Penfold said then he wouldn’t pursue the project without support from town officials and the community. Bonafede said there hasn’t been support for the project.
“Mr. Penfold said then he just wanted to make a presentation and if we weren’t interested he would go home,” Bonafede said. “Go home.”
The community has worked hard since Waste Management’s proposal in the mid-1990s to chart a new path, promoting heritage tourism, a world-class fishery and other projects that build a “vital wholesome community,” Bonafede said.
He highlighted the renovations of the former Citizens National Bank on Main Street and the former Albion Grammar School, both fully occupied. The community is trying to promote attractions along the Route 98 corridor, from Albion to Lake Ontario.
Albion has been recognized for its efforts by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Point Breeze last year won the Ultimate Fishing Town.
“We don’t want the stink, the noise and the heavy trucks going down Main Street and shaking our historic buildings,” Bonafede said.
Other residents – Marilyn Miller, Terry Wilbert, Andrew Remley, John Andrews and Susan Smith – spoke against allowing the landfill in Albion.
“I would encourage him (Penfold) to expend his effort to change the zoning in Orchard Park so he can build a landfill in his own backyard,” Andrews said.
Amy Hope Witryol, a former State Senate candidate who lives in Niagara County, has watched landfill operators come into Niagara County, only to become much bigger operations later on.
Penfold, during the Oct. 23, 2012 meeting, said he would run an Albion landfill that would take in 400,000 to 500,000 tons of garbage annually, which is down from the 690,000 tons approved by the DEC for Waste Management.
Witryol warned Penfold’s landfill could later become a much bigger operation, perhaps selling out to a larger company.
She said rural Orleans is “spectacularly beautiful” and residents should continue their effort to keep out a landfill.
“It would shatter this county in my view,” she said about a new landfill. “You can’t put Humpty’s Dump back together again.”