Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Synagro/Waste Management Land Development and Site Plan review meeting in Plainfield Township postponed

The review of Synagro's Land Development and site plan (in the name of Waste Management) has been postponed from Monday March 19 to Wednesday April 4, 2018 at 7pm in the Roper Auditorium of the Wind Gap Middle School.

This is likely due to a delay waiting for reviews by the Zoning Department and the Township Engineer.  A Land Development Plan is extensive.  This application was submitted only 3 weeks prior to the meeting, which gives little time to conduct and publish a review in order for all parties to see it prior to the review meeting.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Dedicated environmental steward Frank O'Donnell in community that defeated Nestle Waters passes away

Francis Z. O'Donnell Oct 14, 1936 - Jan 25, 2018

This blogger first visited an Eldred Township, PA Board of Supervisors meeting on December 2, 2015 to see firsthand how the community was progressing in its fight against would-be despot Nestle Waters.  Nestle had descended on Eldred Townshp in the dark of night, in hopes of wrestling the community's most precious natural resource (water) from it for the pittance of $30,000 per year.

As I settled into the back of the room, two apparent residents smiled in a welcoming manner.  This was surprising, because I had been warned that residents of this town received outsiders with some suspicion.  This stood to be even more true given that Nestle was seeking to victimize Eldred's citizens like a john takes advantages of whores.

These two citizens were Mr. Frank and Mrs. Marion O'Donnell.  Marion was more talkative than Frank, but the topic about to be discussed was obviously weighing on his mind.  It turns out that the seats that Frank and Marion occupied were their "usual" seats - they attended most board meetings.

I came to learn that Frank had been the Zoning Hearing Board chairman for many years, and also that he helped form and was the President of the Blue Mountain Preservation Association (BMPA) for many years.  The BMPA's initial goal was to fight a proposed race track on the Eldred Township side of the Blue Mountain - on land adjacent to the O'Donnell's property at Smith Gap.  As the fight against the race track progressed, efforts to enact zoning (finally!) in Eldred began, and also preservation of the 360 acre tract in question was envisioned.

Throughout the years, Frank's leadership and participation as well as Marion's constant support resulted not only in preservation of the tract, but increased awareness throughout the community of the importance of property rights for all landowners.  Eldred's zoning ordinance helped make possible the defeat of Nestle's plan in 2016, during which time Frank continued to serve as Zoning Hearing Board Chairman.

I was deeply saddened to learn that Frank (Francis) O'Donnell passed away January 25, 2018 at the age of 81.  It is dedicated individuals like Frank and Marion who are the backbone of a community - those that pick up the sword to fight the slow and steady good fight to preserve the quality of life residents value.  My condolences to Marion and Frank's family.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Synagro fined for sludge application violation in township opposed to Plainfield Township biosolids plant

Waste Management earned a Golden Turd award in February for the most recent application to locate a shit bakery in Plainfield Township. What was the name of that movie - "Same Shit Next Year"?  While previous applications were made by the operator Synagro, Waste Management is taking the dooky by the short hairs in a effort to obviate some legal hurdles and carry this turd over the finish line.

Oooh, that smell - can't you smell that smell?

It turns out the first Golden Turd of the year was prematurely awarded to Waste Management.- it should have been granted to Synagro. In one of several communities opposed to the Syangro plant (Pen Argyl, Wind Gap, Upper Mt Bethel Twp, Washington Twp, Lower Mt Bethel Twp and Plainfield Township) Synagro was found to have spread its shit on frozen ground on January 26 . This is a violation of Synagro's DEP biosolids application permit.

We're so responsible at Synagro that we spread shit on frozen ground

There's an old saying - don't shit where you plan to build a shit factory.  As of  March 9 the DEP website does not show it, but a reliable source reports there was a fine levied.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Synagro and Waste Management file new proposal for biosolids plant in Plainfield Township - same shit different year

Waste Management has always been suspected as wanting extremely badly to have the Synagro biosolids crap bakery added to northern end of its shitpile in Plainfield Township.   They put their shill "non profit" arm Green Knight Economic Development Corporation in the hotseat as the public relations face of the project initially, in a uniformly failed attempt to persuade citizens this is a great project for the community.  They have unmasked themselves - the latest submission to Plainfield Township filed on February 25, 2018 is in the name of Waste Management, not Synagro.

In the past few months Waste Management representatives John Hambrose and Adrienne Fors have been making visits to the board meetings at some of the many towns opposed to this project - singing the praises of crap to the choir.  WM is putting crap where its mouth is.  After a Synagro dog and pony show a year ago, Hambrose had the gall to ask why people wouldn't want "good engineering jobs" that come along with this project - implying this would be the case.  Yay, right John, how many?  One?  What engineer would shack up with a pile of shit - or do you use that title flexibly - is the shit slinger called an "engineer"?

The first Golden Turd award of 2018 goes to Waste Management - congratulations!  Don't let the shit go to your head - the year is young.

Here is a trip down memory lane of the tomfoolery that has transpired since Oct 2016 when this project was initially proposed in a zoning district that Green Knight VP and now former Plainfiield Twp Planning Commission member Robert Cornman Jr.knew full well it was not permitted in, but nonetheless promoted the project enthusiastically and suggested its approval (despite having recused himself) at the Nov 2016 Planning Commission meeting..  In fact, he was and is the Green Knight spokesperson for the project.  Can you say "corruption"?

The current proposal is to expand the Green Knight Energy Center lot to include Synagro on a 12.1 acre parcel, and for some odd reason Waste Management is calling the entire lot "Proposed Synagro Operations".  Multiple permitted uses on one lot is allowed in the Solid Waste district.  But what is proposed is two distinct uses, making crap and making electricity - stop trying to spread lipstick on crap Waste Management.

Blue shading indicated area included in Feb 2018
land development/site plan proposal

The current proposal is a land development plan, which includes a site plan.  The Planning Commission with review both on March 19 (see "Upcoming Events), after reviews are submitted by the township engineer and Zoning Office - expected approximately one week prior to the meeting.  It is odd that Waste Management is going straight to land development - usually an applicant has their Site Plan reviewed and corrects deficiencies and obtains variances, if needed.  Waste Management is clearly attempting to strong-arm Plainfield Township by pressuring them to declare variances are needed.  Based on reviews of previous Synagro Site Plans, it is a certainty that variances will be needed.

The Land Development submission includes a 19-page map package of site plans and detailed drawings, a 3-page package of truck turn diagrams, a 13-page project narrative, a steep slopes narrative, storm water analysis and data package, declaration by Waste Management, and a manufacturer's folder describing the crap dryer.  Several of these are shown below:

Project Narrative and land owner's declaration
Feb 2018 Site Plan Sheet C03 showing Green Knight Energy Center and Synagro on one lot

Feb 2018 Erosion and Sedimentation Plan Sheet C17

Feb 2018 Synagro plant truck movements

Feb 2018 Existing Conditions Sheet C08

Feb 2018 Synagro Truck Tipper detail Sheet C14

A few initial observations:
  • Waste Management may be taking the lead now in order to have to only move an existing lot line, instead of adding a lot.  This may allow them to do what is known as a "resubdivision" using the approved and recorded land development plan for the Energy Center.  That subdivision has a yard determination that is in conflict with the SALDO (subdivision and land development ordinance), and is desired by Synagro so that they can use only a 25' setback from the road when they must have a 50' front yard setback.
  • Plainfield Township's position is Green Knight/Waste Management never met the conditions of the recorded land development plan for the energy center, so Synagro's plant would in fact require a 50' setback from the road (SALDO relef and a variance)
  • The current submission is the first one to realistically display most if not all features that will be needed for the Synagro operation.  For example "truck tippers" are shown, raw material pits, a pump "gallery" where pumping of shit takes place, and a cooling tower.  The Synagro "water treatment plant" has been redefined and relocated as a 58' large storage tank over behind the energy center.
  • All of the added features make for an even more congested area where parking, truck movements and employee pedestrian traffic must all take place.
  • While each of the two operations requires 3 acres each in the ordinance, and more than 12 acres is proposed, the two uses "overlap".  Synagro's trucks are driving right next to the Energy Center in either a driveway or parking lot.  Thus, the minimum required area is not being provided for the Energy Center - it appears that less than 2 acres contiguous is provided for the Energy Center - which would be a zoning violation.
  • The Site Plan refers to the 12.1 acre lot as "proposed Synagro operations, which is a crock.  The Energy Center is within this parcel, and it is in no way related to Synagro's principal use - shit.

Synagro has upped the anty by filing a land development plan.  It is expected that Plainfield Township will do the same in the engineering and zoning reviews - it is time to state unequivocally "A variance is needed to article XXX of the ordinance."  As stated above, normally this would happen prior to land development and variances would be squared away, but Waste Management and Synagro are being pricks and trying to slam their way into Plainfield Township.  It should get interesting soon - the gloves are off and it promises to be a genuine shitstorm.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Synagro Sketch Plan for crap bakery in Plainfield Township requires multiple use variances and one dimensional variance

On Wednesday November 29, the Plainfield Township Planning Commission will meet to review Synagro's latest application to locate a biosolids (crap) bakery in the township.  It is a permitted use, but Waste Management, Synagro, and Green Knights are attempting to wedge this pig into a postage stamp-sized area, and as a result multiple variances are needed.  If they can not demonstrate hardship (which they can't), they can't obtain a permit.  The current application is only a sketch plan - it can neither be approved or disapproved - it's intent is to present a proposed concept and get feedback, ideally.  Synagro already has the feedback it needs from Plainfield Township and the neighboring municipalities - take this shit elsewhere.

Let's review the kinds of variances, and which are easier to be granted under the PA Municipalities Planning Code (MPC), if relief is justified.  There are dimensional variances, in which a dimension such as height, building setback, etc can not be met, and use variances, such as locating a crap bakery in a zoning district it is not permitted, in which a non-dimensional requirement can not be met.  This is what Synagro first tried to do, even though (former) Planning Commission and Green Knight member Robert Cornman Jr. was involved in a similar attempt to locate a business permitted only in the Solid Waste District in another zoning district in 1999.  Click here to see the Zoning Hearing Board opinion rejecting that variance request.  As long time Planning Commission Chairman, responsible for knowing and updating zoning, did he really not know where Synagro's use is permitted?   Did he care?  While the same uniform criteria were intended to be applied to each kind of variance, the PA courts have ruled/interpreted that the most stringent tests for hardship apply to only use variances.  This is ok - Synagro needs multiple use variances.

The following criteria are specified in the MPC, and all must be satisfied to grant a variance:
  1. That there are unique physical circumstances or conditions, including irregularity, narrowness, or shallowness of lot size or shape, or exceptional topographical or other physical conditions peculiar to the particular property and that the unnecessary hardship is due to such conditions and not the circumstances or conditions generally created by the provisions of the zoning ordinance in the neighborhood or district in which the property is located.
  2. That because of such physical circumstances or conditions, there is no possibility that the property can be developed in strict conformity with the provisions of the zoning ordinance and that the authorization of a variance is therefore necessary to enable the reasonable use of the property.
  3. That such unnecessary hardship has not been created by the appellant.
  4. That the variance, if authorized, will not alter the essential character of the neighborhood or district in which the property is located, nor substantially or permanently impair the appropriate use or development of adjacent property, nor be detrimental to the public welfare.
  5. That the variance, if authorized, will represent the minimum variance that will afford relief and will represent the least modification possible of the regulation in issue.
You may have attended a Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) hearing, and walked out saying "that sucked - they knew how they wanted to vote before they walked in.  That was a kangaroo court.  What a joke."  This can and does happen, and many times it goes without challenge due to cost (assuming a record was made to justify appeal by an aggrieved party) or an insufficient record to overturn the decision.  A Zoning Hearing Board is a quasi-judicial body, with a stenographer and testimony under oath.  The Board has the latitude to hear testimony and evidence, and decide which it finds credible and which it does not.  Having good standing as a nearby or adjoining property owner increases the pressure on the Board to act as it always should - ethically, and impartially.  On the other hand, unless an objector with good standing (aggrieved party) appears in opposition, the ZHB can pretty much do as it pleases, but the municipality always has the right to intervene and appeal a decision - even if it did not appear and object.  In the case of Synagro, Plainfield Township obviously objects to their plans, and will appear with counsel at the ZHB to cross examine witnesses and present testimony during a variance hearing. When lawyers show at a Zoning Hearing Board Hearing, it increases the pressure even more to follow procedures carefully.  The ZHB's decisions may be appealed to the county court, the Commonwealth Court, and in some cases the State Supreme Court (the Supreme Court agrees to hear a tiny fraction of civil cases on appeal), by either side.  It is vital to get everything substantive on record at the ZHB, since on appeal usually cases are decided solely on the record made at the ZHB.  The issue on appeal is usually did the ZHB make an error of law or abuse its discretion when it ruled based on the evidence and testimony.

Looking at the Synagro Sketch Plan and the Township Zoning Office's review letter, we can see that several variances are needed (letter is at bottom of this post):
  1. 318(I) x 2 Front lot line is not separating the Green Knight (p 22) or Synagro lot (p 6) from a street right of way, so the front yard setback is not being met. (U)
  2. 402(A) x 2 Neither the proposed Green Knight (p 7) or Synagro lot (p 7) fronts on a street. (U)
  3. 505 Areas within 50' of the banks of any streams, lake or pond shall be in open space. (p 10) (D)
  4. 315.B.35.a Entrances and exits are not separated as required, and are not located along an arterial or collector road. (p 12) (U)
Basically, the Township is arguing that its recreational trail property (in red) was not intended to be considered a "street" when the agreement to allow temporary use of its property was made, that the access drive constructed on it by Grand Central is not a "street", and therefore the proposed lots can not front on it.  Furthermore, the proposed Synagro use is required to be accessed using separate entrances and exits to either an arterial or collector road, and Grand Central's haul road is neither.  Despite Synagro in its sketch plan narrative stating the the entrances and exits are separated, the truck traffic flow diagrams depict both access drives as used in a bidirectional manner - in conflict with the Ordinance.  These are all serious deficiencies.

Another matter that is highlighted in the Township review is that alternate storm water basins/discharge areas must be identified for each proposed lot prior to subdivision or land development approval.  Also that an amended development plan of Green Knight's from 2001 that Synagro relies on in its narrative never met the conditions for final approval, was not recorded, and is thus null and void. This is kind of important - currently Green Knight is operating in violation of its approved and recorded Development Plan, because it depicts the driveway to Green Knight as going through the proposed Synagro plant and connecting to the road through the front yard.  But that was never built, and the Green Knight driveway goes through its side yard (should be the front yard) on the northwest corner of the building.  Uh oh - Lucy got splain'n to do Lucy.  See a portion of the recorded Green Knight plan, below, depicting the driveway location that was approved but not used.

Portion of Synagro Sketch Plan, Plainfield Twp property shown in red

Traffic pattern of necessity.  Bottom diagram is counter clockwise.  Each access is used as both an exit and entrance in violation of the ordinance.

Recorded Green Knight plan, depicting proper driveway through front yard 50' setback
But it was constructed through the side yard 25' setback - bait and switch

The Zoning Office's review letter is shown below for reference.  Note that five use variances and one dimensional are needed thus far.  One of the hardships to obtain a use variance is demonstrating that the property can not otherwise be used profitably.  In this case, the landfill owns the property, and it is extremely profitable.  All the criteria must be met, so failing to meet just one causes the variance to be denied.

Synagro will obtain approval or be denied, in this observer's opinion, based on legal issues involving use of the Plainfield Township Recreational Trail property, and the variances it will need to comply with zoning.  Look at another criterion above (#4) - "will not impair use of adjacent property" presents a problem in light of loss of use of the Township Trail for decades.  "Public welfare" includes health, safety and welfare items such as odors, air pollution, truck traffic etc.  Recently the township solicitor remarked he may be in court with this for 1 to 3 years.  Perhaps Synagro will just leave....

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Engineering and Zoning review letters for Synagro October 3, 2017 Sketch Plan submission for biosolids crap bakery in Plainfield Township

On October 3, 2017, Synagro withdrew its site plan submissions for a biolsolids processing plant at a principal site and an alternate site in Plainfield Township, Northampton County.  A new plan was submitted - a sketch plan on the same alternate site that was previously pursued - on top of a quarry.

The principal difference in the new sketch plan (a sketch plan does not have to meet the same requirements as a site plan - it can be literally a sketch - in this case however, the drawings submitted are equivalent to those that would accompany a site plan) is that Synagro is now planning to haul its waste water off site.  While Synagro has stated this is in response to public concerns, it is likely that Synagro realized it may not obtain approval to dump 80,000 gallons of waste water containing ammonia and other goodies into low volume, high quality streams.  It isn't clear why Synagro is switching to a sketch plan, when ultimately they would have to return to the Planning Commission with a site plan submission to obtain a permit.  Perhaps they believe they can obtain the required regulatory approvals with a sketch plan.

The sketch plan diagrams and narrative were previously posted here (click).  Reviews of this submission were completed by:
  • Plainfield Township Zoning Office
  • BCM (environmental engineering consultant for Plainfield Township)
  • Hanover Engineering (township engineer for Plainfield Township).
The three reviews are posted below.  At a glance, the Zoning Office has dug deeper into the proposed site and has added critical commentary on the original development plan of Green Knights that Synagro is relying on.  Check back here for additional observations as time permits.  Please arrive at your own conclusions in the mean time.  Here is one tidbit - when is a street not a street?  When it isn't connected to the street system according to the Zoning Office.
Proposed "cul-de-sac" to allegedly place Energy Center on a street can not be a street
because it crosses someone else's property (in red).  More like a hanging chad.

Synagro and Plainfield Township are lined up for an extended legal battle in this observer's opinion.  The township is not wavering in its belief that multiple variances are required, and Synagro (and Waste Management) is forging ahead with a fa-la-la "variances?  we don't need no stinking variances!" attitude because this shit is too good to pass up.  Construction will not be beginning anytime soon, if ever.

Township Zoning Office Review

Township Consulting Environmental Engieer Review

Township Engineer Review

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Northampton County Executive Candidate John Brown Refuses to Take Position on Sludge, Using Taxes Other Than As Intended

On Tuesday, Northampton County voters will vote on 5 of 9 council seats, and also elect the next county executive.  Incumbent John Brown is running against Lamont McClure.  McClure served on council for 10 years, until stepping aside two years ago.

Brown's Record on Open Space and Related Taxes

In 2006, voters put John Stoffa into office.  Stoffa promised to raise taxes in order to fund open space preservation.  Earlier, in 2003, voters had voted overwhelmingly to fund a $37m bond issue for the same purpose, but the bond was never pursued.  Stoffa followed through on his promise, and instituted a 0.5 mil property tax, which land owners have paid ever since - it generates $3.9m dollars per year.  This tax was instituted in a manner in which it is not mandatory to spend it on open space, though that is its purpose and as stated voters voted to support it.

Prior to Mr. Brown taking office, of the $29.6m collected, $23.5m was put towards the Open Space program for municipal and county parks, preservation of environmentally sensitive lands and farmland preservation.  The county farmland preservation program is one of the most successful in Pennsylvania.  During Mr. Brown's four years, he has only put $3.7m of $15.2m collected towards open space, and $3m of this was required by a now expired amendment to put towards municipal parks.  The other $11.5m Mr. Brown has evidently used to plug holes in the non-open space budget.  This is a contravention of the voters wishes.

McClure has stated that he will return to funding Open Space at levels similar to that prior to Brown taking office.

Brown's Vision of Economic Development - Warehouses and Bridges to Support Tractor Trailers
No answers for Slate Belt

Brown's campaign advertises his commitment to economic development and transportation, and in fact he has developed a program to replace outdated bridges.  However, he appears to have no respect for our natural resources - both the defunding of Open Space as well as not funding the new innovative Livable Landscapes program demonstrate this.  Brown apparently believes preserving open space takes up space that could be used for million square foot warehouses.  The Livable Landscapes program was instituted just a year ago, to supply a funding stream for projects such as walking trails, recreation and stream restoration.  Funding for this program in 2018?  $0.  At the debate with McClure last week, Brown suggested he had funded it, but those funds were applied last year.  Also at the debate, McClure correctly pointed out that Brown had raided the IDA (Industrial Development Authority) fund after taking office.  The IDA was put in place to identify, promote and fund light industrial development opportunities in the Slate Belt.  Although Brown is most recently from Bangor, he has not lived up to his promise to bring jobs to the Slate Belt.

Brown's $200m Prison, Paid for with no New Taxes?

As has been widely reported, Brown plans to build a new prison for the princely sum of $200m.  He claims that he will not raise taxes to do so.  Even if he continues to raid the taxes collected for Open Space, he will be millions and millions of dollars short.

McClure has stated unequivocally that he would not build a new prison.

Brown's Position on Sludge - No Comment

Mr. Brown has been asked repeatedly to express his stance on sludge, since the Synagro plant has applied to locate in Plainfield Township, and a multi-year battle has taken place over sludge application to farms in Upper Mt. Bethel Township.  One would think that someone that the Slate Belt put into office would have no trouble taking a stance against sludge.  His silence can only signal one thing - he is reluctant to admit to the residents of Northampton County that he supports Waste Management, the proposed Synagro plant and applying sludge to farmland.

In stark contrast, McClure has made a clear statement that he will fight against the use of sludge in Northampton County.

The Slate Belt May Make the Difference on November 7

It is likely that Slate Belt voters are responsible for Brown attaining office, and on Tuesday they may again be the deciding factor in who prevails.  If you value clean air and water, recreation and open spaces, low taxes through preservation of land that may otherwise be developed with homes that will raise school taxes, would like to see real economic development, and not deal with sludge, the choice appears to be clear.

Below is a handout that is being circulated, and included for your reference