Legislation laments landfill location

WARREN -- Legislation coming before city council Wednesday would amend Warren's zoning code to prohibit construction of landfills near residential areas.
The ordinance also would have a bearing on an existing facility, should it seek a new license to operate, said Councilman Robert Holmes III, D-4th, who is co-sponsoring the measure with Councilwoman Susan Hartman, D-7th.
The emergency ordinance would more fully regulate where landfills and waste transfer stations could be located in the city.
It does not specifically target the Warren Hills operation off Martin Luther King Boulevard, but is in response to problems nearby residents have had there.
"There's no way anyone should put up with that," Holmes said of the on-again, off-again rotten egg smell. "That's disgusting. I feel for those people."
Hartman lives closer to Warren Hills in Leavittsburg.
This ordinance, Holmes said, "is so we don't have to go through this nightmare again."
The ordinance states that locating such enterprises close to residential areas "can pose a threat to the health, safety and welfare of the residents of those areas, and the public in general."
Garbage buffer
Warren, using its zoning powers, would protect people by insisting that landfills and waste transfer facilities be no closer than 2,500 feet from areas zoned for residential use.
"I wish we could go a mile, but if we went a mile, we'd outlaw it altogether -- and our law director says we can't do that," Holmes said. The proposed 2,500 feet -- almost a half-mile -- "is the best buffer we can get."
The zoning change would affect the code chapter covering "manufacturing districts."
The legislation would further keep landfills and transfer stations 2,500 feet away from apartment complexes, planned residential units and senior housing.
Any such landfill and transfer facilities already in operation would be considered a "non-conforming use" and may continue operating -- but cannot be expanded.
Addressing issues
In January, Warren Hills withdrew its 2005 application to the city board of health for an operating license. Since then, the U.S. EPA has come onto the landfill site to collect data and sample to determine the extent of contamination and the best system for addressing it.
Since 2002, the state has said the landfill did not substantially comply with Ohio law on construction and demolition debris landfills.
Also in January, a petition signed by 40 people was given to Mayor Michael O'Brien, formally complaining about odor and dumping.
In February, the U.S. EPA ordered the facility to put systems in place to substantially reduce or eliminate the hydrogen sulfide emissions in the neighborhood.
Warren Hills has told the EPA that it doesn't have the money to tackle the project. Instead, the landfill operator is focused on talks with the Ohio EPA that would allow continued operations while incorporating the federal EPA's orders.
If that landfill seeks a new license, it would be addressed under the emergency ordinance, Holmes said.
As an emergency, the legislation would be in effect after a two-thirds vote of council and approval by the mayor. Holmes said he's not aware of any opposition on council.
At the state level, meanwhile, state Reps. Randy Law of Warren, R-64th, and Sandra Stabile Harwood of Niles, D-65th, along with state Sen. Marc Dann of Liberty, D-32nd, are pushing proposals at the state level to tighten the laws for construction and demolition debris landfills, so problems similar to Warren Hills cannot occur again.

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