Garfield commissioners halt premature comments on Carbondale waste transfer facility
Ryan Summerlin September 11, 2012
CARBONDALE – Public opposition to a proposed waste transfer facility east of here is reaching a crescendo a full week before the Garfield County commissioners are set to formally hear the plans.
Dozens of people showed up at the regular Board of County Commissioners meeting Monday hoping to comment on the controversial proposal. But Commission Chairman John Martin put the kibosh on any comments related to the matter outside the formal hearing, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sept. 17 at the commissioners’ regular meeting location in Glenwood Springs.
“You will have your chance during the public hearing,” Martin said. “We are not able to take comments outside of the regular procedure. That will be at our meeting next Monday.”
Waste hauler Mountain Rolloffs Inc. (MRI) and property owner IRMW II LLC are asking the county for permission to locate a solid waste transfer station and recycling processing facility at the former Mid-Continent coal loadout along County Road 100 two miles east of Carbondale.
Neighbors in the area have organized as “Don’t Trash Carbondale,” and have outlined a host of concerns ranging from increased truck traffic and noise to the potential for pollution and fire danger related to the proposed operation.
“Our goal is to inform people about this proposal, but there are a lot of unknowns,” Tom Kilby, who owns a home in the Roaring Fork Preserve subdivision across the street from the site, said at a Sept. 6 community meeting hosted by opponents of the facility.
“This is probably the most important issue facing this community for the next 40 years,” Kilby said. “And it will shape a lot of other things that will happen here.”
Carbondale’s Board of Trustees last week also wrote a letter to the county commissioners urging them to deny the waste transfer station.
Monday’s commissioner meeting was held at Carbondale Town Hall, one of the commissioners’ quarterly off-site meetings.
“We just thought we’d take the opportunity while you’re here in our community, as a matter of convenience,” said Royal Laybourn, another neighbor of the proposed facility. “To stifle debate is not democratic.”
Acting county attorney Carey Gagnon advised, however, that any comments taken outside the public hearing could compromise the process.
“It could lead to an overturning of the decision one way or the other,” she said. “You have to go through the hearing process, that is the venue for the healthy debate you are seeking.”
Those wanting to comment were advised to either show up at the hearing, or submit comments in writing to the Garfield County Planning Department before next week’s meeting.
The waste facility proposal was on Monday’s agenda, but only for the commissioners to visit the site and ask technical questions of the applicant in advance of next week’s hearing. A handful of citizens tagged along for the tour but were also limited in the questions they could ask.
MRI owner Don Vandevender said after the tour that there are a lot of “misconceptions” about what is being proposed.
The site is already being used as the base for MRI trash and recycle hauling trucks between routes and trips to the local landfills.
The only changes with the new proposal will be some facility upgrades to accommodate the waste transfer at the former loadout, and storage of waste for a period of time as it’s being shipped out on larger semi-trailer trucks.
“It’s not nearly the size of a facility as people are thinking it will be,” Vandevender said. “And there’s a misconception that there will be all this added traffic.”
Semi-truck trips, using a haul route from Highway 133 and Snowmass Drive through Carbondale to County Road 100 and back, will be limited to between three and five per day, he said.
According to the proposal, there will be no trips during school drop-off and pick-up times between 7:30-8:30 a.m. and 3-4 p.m. along Snowmass Drive. Two local schools are located along that stretch.
One of the driving forces behind the waste transfer station plan is to use fewer trucking miles to transport trash to the landfill. Instead of the smaller trash trucks going to the landfill, that trip will be made on the larger semis, Vandevender said.
Recyclable materials and construction waste that can be reprocessed, such as concrete, are also easier to deal with at a transfer station rather than the local landfills, he said.
Some of the neighbors aren’t buying it, though.
Scott Eden of Carbondale said at last week’s community meeting that it’s likely MRI will obtain the permits, then sell to a large waste hauling company such as Waste Management, for whom he used to work.
“Trust me, you don’t want a transfer station outside of your town,” he warned. “And the people who own it today probably won’t own it down the road.”
Vandevender denied that the ultimate plan is to sell out to a larger company.
“That’s clearly untrue,” he said.