Friday, December 9, 2016

Synagro proposes crap recycling plant in Plainfield Township on lot which is already full of crap

Blogger's note: There is a saying - don't shit in your own backyard.  This story concerns someone else shitting in my backyard, and is a departure from the water extraction topic normally reported on here.

Holy Crap!
On the heals of a lengthy battle in Upper Mount Bethel Township over the distribution of sludge (crap) on agricultural fields, which includes the recent filing of a lawsuit on behalf of UMBT residents (filed by none other than Bethlehem attorney John Kotsatos, who attended several Nestle hearings in Kunkletown and is representing West Penn Township residents in their battle against Jay Land's water extraction operations), comes a new threat - Synagro proposes to site a sludge/biosolids (crap) recylcing plant in Plainfield Township.

The plant would be located on same site as all of the support operations of the Pen Argyl Waste Management/Grand Central Sanitary Landfill.

How much crap can residents take?
Evidently someone believes quite a bit.  At the first review of this proposal, the Nov. 21 planning commission meeting, it was revealed that Synagro would be taking in 400 tons of crap a day and baking it. Yum.  They actually call the product "cake".

Here's the scary part.  Someone asked Grand Central manager Scott Perin, who was in attendance, "how much crap do you accept at the landfill each day," and his answer was "about the same."  That's right, folks, the landfill in Pen Argyl is depositing 400+ tons of shit in the ground, each day.  Does the DEP know?  There is a call in to find out.  So, this site would have a lot of shit going on, and it has a lot of shit going on already.  No wonder it smells like shit in the area.  800 tons a day - whoa daddy, shit storm!

Location of proposed Synagro operation on lot already being used

Plainflield Township Zoning Ordinance Permits One Principal Use Per Lot
On the lot in question, which is tax parcel E8 11 8, Grand Central Sanitary Landfill has all the support services for its landfill - a business office, the truck terminal, wash station, recycling.  These are all accessory uses related to the same business.  Pick one as the principal use - the county uses truck terminal.  The others are accessory to it.  In 2014, the Plainfield Township Zoning Hearing Board in its infinite wisdom granted a use variance to add a second principal use to this lot - a retail natural gas terminal.  When they did this, they failed to determine that the criteria for the variance were not met, because they did not address the criteria in their deliberations.  Instead, everyone on the board and the board's solicitor glad-handed and kept telling each other how great it was that the township would have a natural gas terminal.  This proceeding was a sham and handled in the manner of a "kangaroo court," though a zoning hearing board is a quasi-judicial body whose decisions may be appealed to courts of common pleas.  This proceeding looked more like a political event.  No one appealed this decision.

Sham decision to grant a variance for a second principal use on site targeted by Synagro

The Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code has uniform objective criteria to grant a variance, and a use variance is the hardest to justify.  Here are the criteria that the Zoning Hearing Board has an obligation to evaluate one by one, but did not in granting the 2014 variance:

Uniform criteria in Pennsylvania MPC Sec 910.2 to grant a variance
Synagro can't meet the first three, and all must be met

Sludge Free UMBT Alleges Township Review Process is "Rubber Stamp"
Is the Cake Already Baked?  
The same Zoning Officer who required Grand Central to obtain the variance in 2014 for the additional principal use of a retail gas pump on the targeted lot in 2016 failed to require a variance to the same Ordinance article for Synagro, to add the much more significant principal use of crap recycling plant - which will cost $20m.  Hanover Engineering (substituting for Ott Consulting) failed to flag the principal use issue - which they should have done.  Instead, they simply accepted the zoning officer's comments that the use is permitted, reprinting them in their review letter.  Members of the organization Sludge Free Upper Mount Bethel Township attended the Nov. 21, 2016 planning commission meeting, witnessed the discussion about principal uses and member Robert Cornman's encouragement to recommend approval that night, and drew the conclusion that the review process is no more than a "rubber stamp".  They may be correct - how can the zoning officer have not realized a Use Variance is needed?  Attendees report that the zoning officer, when questioned in the meeting, said "it was decided years ago there can be multiple uses on this lot.  It's not even an issue."  By the zoning officer's "rationale", the granting by the Zoning Hearing Board of the variance he required in 2014, with not even addressing the criteria, gives Grand Central carte blanche to now add as many principal uses as they wish.  Movie theater, car wash, auto parts store - the sky is the limit.  This is the person whose responsibility it is to see that the zoning ordinance is met.  No wonder spectators thought they were witnessing a rubber stamp.  Push er through, we'll work out the "details" later.

Mr. Cornman is Vice President of Green Knight Economic Development Corporation (GKEDC), which runs the Green Knight Energy Center on the adjacent site. Synagro's application claims that the bulk of the heat to bake their cake (fry the shit) will be supplied from the Green Knight Energy Center, yet the Site Plan does not show this.  This will be covered in a separate post.  Steve Hurni is a Plainfield supervisor and also a member of GKEDC.  Sludge Free UMBT reportedly distributed a flyer by mail today detailing Mr. Cornman and Mr. Hurni's associations.  Although Mr. Cornman recused himself from voting or making motions, witnesses state he proposed the planning commission sending the application to the Zoning Hearing Board that night, with conditions for deficiencies.  These deficiencies were significant, such as Synagro would not specify if its waste water would be routed to the Waltz or Little Bushkill Creek, which are both high quality cold water fisheries (HQ-CWF).  4/5 of planning commission members sit on the township EAC, so why they would send an application on that has environmental uncertainties and lack of definition defies logic.  Was Mr. Cornman having his cake and eating it too this evening?   Not make a motion but make a motion?

Zoning Officer fails to require a variance to Sec 401 - crap recycling is a third principal use

Hanover Engineering Review Parrots Zoning Officer's Comments on Use,
Failing to Flag Need For Use Variance

Synagro Argues That Crap Recycling is Merely One Principal Use On Lot That has Several
On Nov. 22, 2016, the Plainfield Township Zoning Officer belatedly verbally informed Synagro that a variance would in fact be needed to Sec 401 for multiple principal uses, following a discussion at the Nov. 21 planning commission meeting.  Synagro filed a variance application on Dec 5, 2016, with the wild claim that this lot has historically had several principal uses, in justification of why a variance to Sec 401 should be granted.  They claim that slate processing and mineral extraction are "present uses", though they were abandoned many years ago.  Synagro's own site plan depicts "Former Slate Mill Quarry Building (Abandoned)" - see below - so let's cut the crap.  They list all the accessory uses to the landfill, as if each is a principal use but they are accessory and not principal uses.  These comprise one principal use.  Last, they list the gas pump, which is a legitimate second principal use.
Slate Mill shows as "abandoned" on Synagro Site Plan, but "Present Use" in Variance Application (seen below)

Synagro "gilds the lily" by claiming there are numerous existing principal uses

Cummon, Synagro, a Polished Turd is Still a Turd

What's next?  Tex-Mex, Electricity and Shit
The Planning Commission meets on December 19, 2016 at 7pm to next consider the Synagro application.  Here is the agenda for the night:
  1. Taco Bell Special Exception Application for demolition of Wind Gap Professional Center and construction of fastfoodery with drive through @ 6695 Sullivan Trail and Rt 512
  2. Metrotek Electrical Services Site Plan for Speck Plastics location
  3. Synagro Special Exception Application (continued)
Synagro's project may not get the floor until 9:30pm, since there are two new applicants before it on the agenda.  That is how it works - new business first.

The Zoning Hearing has not been scheduled, but will likely be in January or February.  Each meeting is important to attend, if you are concerned about the proposed project.

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