Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Upper and Lower Mount Bethel Townships join Wind Gap and Pen Argyl in opposition to proposed Synagro biosolids facility

On Monday night, the Upper Mount Bethel Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to send a letter to Plainfield Township, advising that they oppose the proposed Synagro biosolids plant and reserve the right to appear at meetings and hearings to be a party.  On June 2, the Lower Mount Bethel Board of Supervisors sent a similar letter (below).

These letters join letters from Wind Gap and Pen Argyl, which all express similar concerns: stream and water quality, air quality, truck traffic, quality of life, property values, etc.  Plainfield Township supervisors also oppose this project, but legally they can't express an opinion one way or the other.  The most outspoken critic in the area has been John Reinhardt, who has written excellent letters to the newspaper explaining why turning the entire Slate Belt into a trash dump under the guise of Economic Development and "good jobs" (Synagro projects an underwhelming 16 jobs at this site) will destroy the quality of the lives of those living there.

Nobody in the Slate Belt wants this pile of shit business located there, except Waste Management, Green Knight Economic Development Corporation, and Synagro.  Following the April Q&A, Green Knight President Carlton Snyder stated that one of the criteria GKEDC looked at was "contractual obligations between the parties" when Green Kight chose to support this project.  What does this mean?  Green Knight is a 501(c)(3) - but are they truly independent as required for non-profit status?

It appears that Waste Management wants this project desperately, to fit into their plains for the trash dump.  Recently this blog broke the news that Waste Management submitted a permit modification request to DEP in 2016, for disposal of liquid waste - a very lucrative segment of the waste disposal market.  Only months later, this Synagro project is announced on property adjacent to the land fill owned by Waste Management.  How does this project fit into Waste Management's grand plan is the question...                      

Plainfield Township Zoning Office denies Synagro biosolids plant permit for 2nd time and determines at least 8 zoning variances required

Note: this post primarily concerns the Zoning Office letter which was published the afternoon of June 12, not the Site Plan review by the Planning Commission that evening.

On June 12, 2017, the Plainfield Township Zoning Office issued a letter to Synagro, determining that at least eight (8) specific variances are required for its planned crap bakery as a permitted use in the Solid Waste Zoning District.  Several other Zoning Ordinance requirements are questioned, and compliance is reserved to be determined at a later date.  Just because it's permitted doesn't mean it can happen.  This is a major setback for Synagro - variances are heard by the Zoning Hearing Board, whose decisions are appealed to the Court of Common Pleas, then the Commonwealth Court, etc.  There are specific criteria that must be met to justify variances - often glossed over by Zoning Hearing Boards, but are the ultimate determining factor in whether a variance is justified.  If your township's zoning hearing board is a Kangaroo Court, as was displayed in West Penn Township last evening (water extraction matter), its decisions can easily be overturned on appeal.

For good measure, a Zoning Permit for Synagro was denied for the second time - in the first Zoning Office's review letter in April the permit was also denied.  This is SOP, due to the requirement to approve or deny a permit within a set time frame, and a Site Plan approval required that takes longer than that time frame.  In the case of a Site Plan review, up until a permit is issued following a review and recommendation to the Zoning Officer, variances may be required; the determinations made June 12 do not exclude the possibility of additional variances being required later in the process.

Some top level questions in the township's letter that are identified are:

  •  "Can Syangro use Plainfield Township property (Recreational Trail) under the terms of an agreement that granted Grand Central (Waste Management) the right to use said property until the land fill closes?"  The land fill is expected to close roughly between 2030 and 2035.
  • Can the subdivision that created the Green Knight Energy Center parcel be "undone"?
At the June 12 Planning Commission review of Synagro's Site Plan, Solicitor Backenstoe addressed concerns about the Recreational Trail use agreement with Grand Central, and indicated he would review it more closely in order to give guidance on it prior to the continuation of the Planning Commission review.

It is expected that prior to the next Planning Commission meeting, Synagro will submit variance applications for the variances identified, since the Planning Commission reviews variances prior to the Zoning Hearing Board voting to approve/disapprove them.  Basically, Synagro is up Shits Creek - screwed.  They can't possibly meet the criteria specified in the Municipalities Planning Code.to be granted variances on the proposed site.  Here are the variances determined to be required.  Each line item is a reference to an Article in the Ordinance:
  • (Use) 315(B)(35)(b) Entrance/Exit drives shall be separated and accessed from an arterial or collector road
  • (Dim) 505 areas within 50' of a pond shall be open space
  • (Dim) 318(I) Front yard setback of 50'
  • (Dim) 704(B)(3) Maneuvering room shall be outside required buffer and yard areas
  • (Use) 402(A) Street frontage
  • (Use) 201(B) Front yard definition
  • (Dim) 703(G)(1) Parking space and access drives shall be at least 10' from side/rear lot lines
  • (Dim) 703(G)(2) Areas that are not parking spaces, access drives, walkways shall be landscaped
"Use" is a use variance, "Dim" is a dimensional variance - as determined by this blogger.  Use variances are rarely granted.  The pond setback variance was identified as "use" because Synagro proposes not only building too close to it, but in the pond.  Amphi-truck, anyone?

Here is the biggest problem with Synagro's Site Plan - they have far less space (less than 50%) than they need, so they made up their own definition of front yard to fit their building in, and in the process triggered two of the variances above.  In the process, they chose an arbitrary point (red circle in diagram) to transition from the front yard to a make believe side yard.  The SALDO specifically provides for lots along curved roads, in which the entire frontage is the front yard, there are two side yards that meet at the rear, and there is no rear yard.  Synagro came up with a fantasy yard layout, in order to deal with only a 25' setback along the recreational trail - which in their imaginary world they call a side yard, adjacent to township property not even identified on the site plan that Synagro plans to use for the life of its proposed plant.  The green line in the diagram depicts yards that actually comply with the SALDO and Ordinance.  What Synagro did is bull shit - let's start the side yard at this random point Joe chose to make everything fit.  Hey, great idea!

Synagro's fantasy yard layout (black), compared with the yards as defined in the SALDO and Zoning Ordinance (green)

Employees will need one of these to park in the pond.  A larger version is needed for sludge transport near through the parking area

Here is the Zoning Office's June 12 letter:

Monday, June 12, 2017

Two important Poop and Water Extraction blog municipal meetings tonight, in the midst of intimidation

Tonight, in West Penn Township, there is a Zoning Hearing Board hearing to hear an appeal by citizens rightfully upset that a water extraction operation was welcomed quietly into town - in a process that bypasses the one dictated by the Municipalities Planning Code as well as the township zoning ordinance.  In court testimony last week, in which water pimp Jay Land failed in his attempt to have a bond required, there was testimony that concerned citizens had been intimidated by the landowners and Mr. Land in response to them pursuing their right to challenge Land's permit and its regulatory enforcement.  It rumored there have been one or more additional incidents, which may be discussed at tonight's hearing.

In Plainfield Township, poop processor Synagro pursues review of its Site Plan in support of its application to locate a crap bakery in the township.  What was designed to be a back door (yuck yuck) approach in which the community was blindsided and would not know what happened until the project was approved has evolved into a major battle.  Three townships have explicitly objected to the proposed project, and it is rumored a fourth is or has sent its objection as well.  Plainfield Township can not legally object to the project, but has hired consultants to "make sure the ordinance is upheld." (aka it objects)  Now comes evidence that agents of Synagro are engaged in what appears to this blogger to be intimidation.  I have never seen such a letter accompanying materials for planning commission review, in which members are reminded of their "legal obligation" before an application is even reviewed.  This application was submitted March 31, 2017 and has not yet had a first review due to multiple delays requested by Synagro.

 The result of the Zoning Office's review is (just received this afternoon - see below) is that Synagro must appear before the Zoning Hearing Board in a quasi-judicial proceeding to meet it's legal obligation in an attempt to prove hardship for variances.  Judge for yourself the letter from Synagro's legal counsel:

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Synagro May 30 revised site plan for proposed Plainfield Township biosolids site retains several zoning ordinance violations

Synagro submitted a revised site plan on May 30 for its proposed biosolids crap bakery to be located in Plainfield Township on lands of Waste Management, near the boundaries of Wind Gap and Pen Argyl.  The boroughs of Wind Gap and Pen Argyl have submitted letters of objection to the proposed plan, as well as Lower Mount Bethel Township.  It is rumored that Upper Mount Bethel Township is considering objecting as well.

To Synagro's credit, the revision eliminates the preposterous proposal to essentially overlap Synagro's operation with that of the existing Green Knight Energy Center, and eliminates several variances that would have been needed to implement that non-plan.

However, several variances that appear to be required in the original version of this site plan remain (click here for a detailed description of the deficiency in the review of the original site plan):

  • Sec 503.J.1.c & 503.J.1.d Steep Slopes
  • 318.I & SALDO 10.7.D  Yard definitions - lots with no rear yard and two side yards
  • 704.B.6 Off street loading traffic pattern
  • 315.B.35.a Additional Requirements lot size
  • 315.B.35.b Additional Requirements separate entrances and exits
  • Sec 505 50' setback from a pond for driveways, parking areas, and buildings
In addition, the following variances appear to be needed:
  • 201.B No part of a yard from the surface upward may be occupied unless provided for in ordinance
  • 704.B.3 Maneuvering room must be outside required yards
Significantly, Synagro continues to attempt to squeeze a project the ordinance requires 5 acres for into about 1-2/3 acres of usable area - a fact that results in all of the variances needed listed above (see Site Plan below).

Synagro claims in its response that the Steep Slopes portion of Plainfield Township's ordinance do not apply since the pond is man-made, and thus it not developing on Class A or Class B slopes.

Another key item in the response is that Waste Management believes it has the right to use Plainfield Township's Recreational Trail pretty much forever - not when the land fill closes as intended  A legal opinion should be obtained because the agreement says nothing about Waste Management granting rights to lessors to set up additional operations.  It should be noted that Plainfield Township's Recreation Board has also submitted a letter in opposition to Synagro's plan.

Here is the new traffic pattern that avoids using the neighboring property.  However, note that either a 25' or 50' setback (depending on if the area is the side or rear yard) is violated by both the driveways as well as the proposed berm.
Loading/unloading patterns are in side yard and in opposing directions on one-lane drive (dangerous)

No further review will be done here at this time.  As of Thursday at 3:15pm, Plainfield Township had not received a review of these updated materials from the township engineer.  EDIT: Engineer's review was received by the township and is at the bottom of this post.  Following receipt of the review, it is expected that the Zoning Office will issue a review letter as well, indicating if any variances are required.  To date, none have been officially identified.  Since the Planning Commission reviews variances also, it is expected that during the Commission's review, variances will have to be discussed.  Time is very short - the review begins tomorrow evening.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Jay Land fails in attempt to require a bond or prove frivolity in appeal to ZHB for lack of enforcement and fraudulent issuance of West Penn Fort Franklin Road Ringgold permit

On Wednesday and Thursday, in the Schuykill County Court of Common Pleas, a trial was held in the matter of the appeal by citizens of West Penn Township to the Zoning Hearing Board, in which water extraction aficionado Jay Land attempted to toss a log in the citizens' path by having the court order a bond to protect his interests at his new Fort Franklin Road Ringgold Acquisition Group II site as well as show the appeal is frivolous.  Mr. Land failed on both counts, and the Zoning Hearing Board hearing in West Penn will proceed as scheduled on Monday June 12 at 7pm.

At issue in the appeal is the citizens' belief that the permit was obtained in an improper and possibly fraudulent manner, as well as the permit conditions have not been enforced by the zoning officer.  Evidence was presented by the citizens for both arguments.  Attorney John Kotsatos appeared for the citizens, and Jeff Cianculli and Lauren Schwimmer of Weir Partners for Mr. Land.   The witnesses were Jay Land and Zoning Officer Bill Anders for property owners David and Terri Knoedler and lessee Mr. Land, and Allison McArdle and Beth Pelo for the citizens.

Issues for Judge Russell

Judge Russell was concerned that the citizens do not have standing before the West Penn Zoning Hearing Board, and that it may also not be the correct venue.  She was also concerned about the timeliness of the appeal, since the Municipalities Planning Code states that a decision of the Zoning Officer shall be made within 30 days.  

Very quickly, the judge appeared to determine that a bond was not justified, since Mr. Land testified that his business is fully operational and the citizens are not requesting a stay of the operation during litigation.  Remaining was the question of whether the appeal is frivolous and can be pursued in the manner it is.

Key Testimony

Solicitor John Kotsatos for the citizens presented case law that demonstrates citizens have successfully pursued such an appeal, when it was found there was something fraudulent in the manner in which a permit was granted.  The finding of such fraud eliminates the 30 day time limit on appeals.  Through testimony of both Mr. Anders and Ms. McArdle, Kotsatos argued there is such an element in the instant case.  Mr. Anders testified that when he received the permit application from Mr. Land, he had questions and consulted with Township Solicitor Gretchen Sterns as well as the Township Supervisors to confirm the permit should be granted.  This is an abomination and violates the West Penn Township Zoning Ordinance, as Mr. Kotsatos showed.  Furthermore, Ms. McArdle reported that she attended virtually every BOS meeting in 2015, during which time residents were told Mr. Land had no permit for water extraction at Fort Franklin Road.  Residents were led to believe by supervisors that Mr. Land was extracting water for Agricultural purposes only, and Mr. Land's testimony was he himself stated this at one or more meetings.  The same supervisors who were "consulted" prior to granting the permit.  Ms. McArdle testified that once the permit was finally discovered by citizens, that ultimately they were told Mr. Land would receive a Cease and Desist order (July of 2016) that Mr. Anders was purportedly drafting due to lack of filing a Land Development Plan, but such an order was never issued.  This supports the citizens' second argument that not only was the permit improperly granted, but its conditions were not met.  To date, a Land Development Plan has not been filed, and (not put into testimony) BOS minutes reflect now that supervisors are suggesting one is not needed.  A total circle jerk that circumvents statutory procedures, performed and overseen by these do-nothings in West Penn Twp elected office.  If what Mr. Anders testified to is true, the supervisors were party to the circumvention of the Zoning Ordinance - which they do not have the authority to do.  They approve changes to the Ordinance that have been proposed and discussed publicly, not help interpret it in private - that is the ZHB's purview.

Statutory References

Let's see where Mr. Anders went off the rails.  Here are sections of the West Penn Zoning Ordinance that define the duties and responsibilities of the Zoning Officer and Zoning Hearing Board:
 Zoning Officer's Responsibilities

Zoning Hearing Board's Responsibilities

Mr. Anders made a crucial error in soliciting the advice of supervisors and the township solicitor in regards to whether the permit should be granted.  If he had any doubt at all, it needed to be made as an interpretation of the Zoning Hearing Board.  In fact, the permit should not have been granted because water bottling is a permitted use by Special Exception in other zoning districts in West Penn - the Light Industrial, the General Industrial, and the Extractive Industrial district.  It is not a use permitted at all in the Agricultural District, where the Fort Franklin operation is located.  Mr. Anders took it upon himself to rely on Ms. Sterns opinion that water extraction is an Agricultural use (because a court ruled water is a food and thus ag related).  There are three errors - 1) water extraction is the use, not the packaging of water and 2) the use is specifically permitted elsewhere and thus not permitted in this district and 3) Ms. Sterns should not have been relied on at all.  If Ms. Sterns had looked further, she would have found that actually in PA water extraction has been found to be more similar to a more intense operation such as mining.

Note that bottling is a special exception use - which allows careful review and the placement of conditions on the permit that protect the health saftey and welfare of residents.  This is its purpose.  What Mr. Anders did by conspiring with the supervisors and township solicitor is issue a permit that received no review at all - not even the Land Development Plan that he himself issued a letter saying was necessary, and never enforced (!!!!)  You just could not make this shit up, people. As a result double and triple axle tankers are using and abusing Blue Mountain Drive, tankers far in excess of the weight allowed on both township and state roads without a special permit which have not been obtained - while supervisors sit on their useless asses and say "we can't do anything, complain to someone else".

Judge's ruling and what is next

Although the judge expressed reservations during closing that the citizens had proven they are entitled to pursue their appeal before the Zoning Hearing Board, apparently on subsequent review of case law and the citizens' Memorandum of Law, and the testimony, she determined that they are.  She denied the proposed Order on Mr. Land's behalf to require a bond, and find the appeal frivolous.

Township attempts to have appeal delayed, and Land proposes withdrawal of appeal

Current township solicitor Holly Heintzelman attended the Wednesday hearing, and took meticulous notes.  Following the hearing, she approached Mr. Kotsatos, and indicated the township is planning to appear as a party to the ZHB appeal, and would like to delay the Zoning Hearing.  WTF?  What right does she have to make such a request?  The township wants this matter to go away, that much is obvious.  Ms. Heintzleman may have talked over strategy Wednesday evening with Mr. Land, who was overheard to invite her out to dinner while standing with the Weir attorneys.  Sweet!  Bend over West Penn residents and grab your ankles, this is a no-lube job.

Following Thursday's conclusion of the court case, Mr. Cianciulli approached Mr. Kotsatos and suggested the appeal be withdrawn and Mr. Kotsatos pursue the matter in county court, as the judge has said she thought was appropriate.  Again, WTF?  As the judge's ruling confirms, Mr. Kotsatos is pursuing the matter in the appropriate venue.

The West Penn Zoning Hearing Board will meet at 7pm Monday June 12 to hear the appeal.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Wind Gap Council and Mayor vote to oppose Synagro's biosolids crap bakery in Plainfield Township - unifying the objection of all three affected municipalities

On April 18, 2017, Wind Gap Borough Council and its mayor voted to oppose Synagro's application to locate a biosolids plant next door in Plainfield Township.  This letter is very similar to the letter of objection that Pen Argyl Council sent a few months ago, citing the same concerns for their residents - truck traffic, air and water quality, and property values.  Plainfield Township supervisors voted in December to effectively oppose the application, by authorizing the retention of consultants and attorney(s) to represent the township in the application review process.  Nobody wants this literal pile of crap and all the ills that come with it that would affect thousands of people in exchange for a claimed measly 16 jobs and $50,000 per year in tax receipts for one township.
It is curious that Wind Gap voted to oppose Synagro's application on April 18, yet this letter was not drafted until May 15, and reportedly not received by Plainfield Township until May 30.  The letter makes it clear that Wind Gap residents pressured council to take this action - as opposed to council members coming up with the idea themselves.  In fact, it is reported that a few months earlier during a Wind Gap council meeting that at least some council members did not express objections to this proposal.  One gets the very distinct impression council would not have done this on their own - the people have spoken.

The Planning Commission review for this project will take place Monday June 12, 2017 from 7pm to 10:30pm at the Wind Gap Middle School, as shown on the right margin here.  All interested parties should attend this critical meeting.

Click here to see Pen Argyl's letter.

Friday, June 2, 2017

West Penn Supervisor Anthony Prudenti may have solution to Jay Land's water tanker traffic - and stand to personally benefit financially

Pseudo spring water operations proliferate in West Penn Township

Water extraction has been the hot topic in West Penn Township for the past three years, and for good reason.  There are multiple operations running currently, and others are known to be in the planning stages.  On Dairy Road, Mountainside owned by Joe Jones is one operation but was shut down three times in 2017 for coliform.  Jay Land's M.C. Resources on Pine Valley Rd is selling untreated and untested water in violation of its DEP license, and was unable to reach a settlement with the DEP in an Environmental Hearing Board action - scheduled to be finally be ruled on later this month.  If whomever Land is selling water to is selling it as spring water, that's another problem - his wells at Pine Valley are over 200' deep and that isn't spring water.  Actually none of the operations in West Penn is producing spring water - they all use deep wells below bedrock.  Land is running a new operation on Fort Franklin Road under the name Ringgold, without any permits other than a zoning permit which the land owner obtained to allegedly extract water for ag use.  Also on Dairy Road, Bill Verano under the guise of an aquaculture operation called WJ Aquaculture, is believed to be gearing up to sell water with some label - his has manganese in it and can't be sold as spring water.  It is believed that Verano does not have a zoning permit to extract water for sale.  Last, Larry Hower, who is believed to want to break his contract with Jay Land (Hower owns much of the land used for Pine Valley) is seeking a Zoning Hearing Board special exception to get around Clean and Green regulations to withdrawal acreage on a property he recently purchased at 104 Blue Mountain Drive, and it is believed he may want to start his own water extraction operation there.  Jump on in - the water is full of crap.

All these half-assed operations producing a product that Nestle Waters won't go near with a 10' pole (spring water is from shallow sources above bedrock - the West Penn operations are all wells 200'+ deep) in one township.  How could West Penn residents be so lucky?   And what are township supervisors doing to make sure that these operators are following permit requirements and not damaging the roads and creating unsafe conditions?  Sadly and oddly, the answer is township supervisors are not doing a damned thing.  Why not is a question you should keep in mind...

Bonding and posting of roads - nothing more than a $14,000 smoke screen (you bought that)

The water extraction operations all involve selling to others - none of these businesses bottles the water itself.  This means trucking of water, in large water tankers.  A tandem axle 6200 gallon tanker is a gross weight of 40 tons, a triple axle 8000 gallon tanker is a gross weight of 47.8 tons.  A permit is required from PADOT for the larger tanker on state roads, from the township on township roads.  Loaded triple axle tankers have been observed running out of Fort Franklin Road, using both township and state roads, and are believed to not have these required permits.  West Penn Supervisors have done Jack Shit about this.  They used $14,000 of taxpayer funds in 2015 for an engineering road study, which recommended bonding and posting of roads.  The study found that township roads being used by water tankers are woefully deficient in being able to support said traffic.  On March 27, 2017, a workshop was held in West Penn to educate the supervisors and road department employees on how to enact a bonding and posting program, but Supervisor Prudenti is rumored to have stated afterwards that such a program could place an undue burden on owner/operators bringing their trucks home, and an unnecessary expense on businesses.  So having that workshop was just going through the motions?  Do nothing and let water hauling companies whose owners like Land don't even live in West Penn Township ruin the roads?  What the fuck?

Mr. Prudenti has a few solutions - which may benefit him in the wallet.  First let's pause and look where you can turn to for help in the township administration if you have a concern about water extraction and truck traffic.  Hint - the answer is no one.

Who you gonna call - Ghostbusters?

West Penn Township has a website.  If you go there looking for assistance in how to solve a problem, guess what you will find?  You'll find a smiling family - which means that is probably a stock picture and these people live far from Schuykill County.  Not a single township official, solicitor, township engineer, zoning officer, planning commission member, zoning hearing board member, road department member is identified anywhere on the website.  No board minutes.  Lights are on (maybe) and nobody is home.  And this speaks volumes - let's look at the "contact us" links.  Look carefully down the left side of the page:
If you want assistance, don't contact "Us" - contact "Someone Else" - we don't give a crap about you
The unmitigated gall

There is a section devoted to Water Extraction (lol) but every single link is for an outside agency or outside politician.  Why aren't the supervisors listed here, and their home phone numbers?  You know why - because they aren't going to do diddly squat to act to protect the health safety and welfare of their citizens.  It's all lip service.  James Dean called a resident on July 2, 2016 and left a message that a cease and desist order was being drafted to shut down Jay Land's Fort Franklin site for lack of having filed a land development plan, which was bull shit.  That order was never completed.  This blogger called James Dean in late 2016, and he said supervisors would "protect the health safety and welfare of West Penn residents."  Bull shit, Mr. Dean.  You're full of shit, and I was too polite to tell you that at the time.  Supervisors were alerted to trucks leaving Land's facility, damaging property and driving recklessly into oncoming traffic in Rt 309 in October of 2016, and what have they done?  There are water extraction operations springing up all over West Penn and what are supervisors doing?  Nada.  Zilch.  The supervisors are welcoming the devil in to abuse the roads and residents - sending the message they are glad to whore your natural resources and let these operators destroy your infrastructure for nothing in return - not that destruction of a vital resource like water can be compensated.  At least nothing they will reveal to you.  You must ask, what is in it for them, because they are selling you right down a rocky dried-up stream and shoving drill rods up your asses.

Conflicts of interest emerge and Supervisor Prudenti's
"solutions" to road problems

Let's look at some individuals, companies and connections.

Gretchen Sterns - Solicitor in West Penn through 2015.  Office at 200 Mahantongo Street Pottsville, the same address as Lehigh Engineering owned by Jack Rich.  Told residents the state considers water extraction an agricultural use - which is not true.
Too cozy in government is when you share the same building
... and when you hire a real estate attorney instead of a municipal law attorney as solicitor

Bill Anders - West Penn Codes Officer who issued the permit for Land's Fort Franklin site, for "Water Harvesting", works for Lehigh Engineering.  Water harvesting is not a use in West Penn Township.  Issued a letter warning Land he must complete a land development plan in early 2016, and was said to be drafting a cease and desist order in July 2016 - that order never was filed.

Bill Verano - Owner of WJ Aquaculture and believed to be attempting to start up a water extraction operation using the same facility - but he doesn't have a permit for a water extraction operation.  An engineer and writing the West Penn Township's Act 537 compliance plan allegedly for free.  Why would he do that - what is in it for him?

New Tilapia LP - an aquaculture business owned by Jack Rich.

Lehigh Engineering - If there is a really crappy business seeking to set up in your township, don't be surprised if bottom feeding Lehigh Engineering represents it.  Also owned by... Jack Rich.

John Anthony Prudenti - brother of West Penn supervisor Anthony Prudenti.  Owned a parcel of land now owned by Wissohickon, which purportedly hosts the well used to extract water for Pine Valley (operated by Jay Land near Kepners Rd).

James Dean - West Penn Supervisor
As mentioned above, Mr. Dean falsely "misrepresented" in a telephone call to a concerned resident on July 2, 2016 that a cease and desist order was being drafted to force Jay Land to comply with local laws.
Anthony John Prudenti -West Penn supervisor and land baron extraordinaire - both his and yours

Part A of Prudenti solution
As reported in the Times News, at the May 1, 2017 BOS meeting, Mr. Prudenti suggested he has a "solution" to "negotiate to get water tankers off township roads," but his fellow supervisors did not engage him in this discussion.  Perhaps they were aware that Prudenti recently purchased a parcel of land that is on the corner of Kepners Rd and Route 895, where tankers leaving Land's Pine Valley operation turn from a township road onto a state road.  Here's a picture that contains a lot of information - Prudenti's November 2016 acquisition is in the upper left corner: 

LAMB EQUITY purchased a  2.85 acre property at Kepners and 895 in November 2016

The tax records indicate the parcel is owned by "LAMB EQUITY LIMITED" with an address of 187 Archery Club Road New Ringgold.  Guess what that is the address of?

LAMB EQUITY's address is West Penn Supervisor Anthony Prudenti's address

A water tanker truck terminal property for $25,000?  Sign me up!

LAMB EQUITY's address is where West Penn Supervisor Anthony Prudenti's house is located.  Note that currently, trucks departing Land's Pine Valley facility go along the old railroad bed (owned by Larry Hower who also owns the land the wells that supply the water are located on), and turn left on Kepners.  What if a pipeline were installed that runs the same route, along the west side of Kepners, to a loading facility right on the state road, owned by... Anthony Prudenti?  Sweet!  Consider that a pipeine on the other side of the road to Jay Land's parcel on the other corner of Kepners and 895 would cross more residential lots (green circle) - and likely be problematic.

Part B of Prudenti's solution

Mr. Prudenti reportedly told a citizen that to assist Mr. Land to have safer access to his Fort Franklin location from Route 309, the town may sell Bulichs Road - a dirt road that turns into a tow path between Route 309 and Blue Mountain Drive, to Land.  This road has 4 houses on it - welcome to heavy trucker hell, residents.  You read that right - this solution of Mr. Prudent's is to sell township property to Mr. Land.  No wonder Supervisors Dean and Bogosh didn't want to discuss Prudenti's plans at the May 1 meeting.  Anything to make Jay Land's llife easier because he is such an honest and good neighbor (not a resident), while screwing the citizens of West Penn Township.  And if it helps make another transaction possible, hey why not?  What is next, Mr. Prudenti - suggesting going right up the middle of Kepners with a water line?

Appeal of Jay Land's permit for Fort Franklin Rd site scheduled for June 12

Reported on this site is the progress of the appeal citizens have filed to have the permit for the Fort Franklin site revoked.  Citizens were forced to do this, because for months Land has been operating, and despite brown water with heavy sedimentation, property damage from tankers, and reckless trucking of extracted water, West Penn supervisors have done nothing on behalf of the citizens to protect their health safety and welfare.

What you can do

The next West Penn BOS meeting is on Monday June 5.  Some questions need to be asked.

  1. Are new water extraction operations going to go through the required application and permitting process, or are they going to be let to "slide by" like Jay Land's?
  2. Is West Penn going to follow through with bonding and posting of roads as recommended (and the results clearly demonstrate the need for) in the 2015 study?
  3. Are West Penn roads where tankers are used going to be upgraded as suggested in the 2015 study?
  4. Is West Penn going to require tri-axle trucks leaving Land's or any other facility(ies) to get the required route-specific permits for township roads - or continue to allow them to run illegally?
  5. Is Supervisor Prudenti planning to get into the water extraction or water tanker terminal business?  What income does he expect if he hosts a loading facility for water shipments?
  6. Has Supervisor Prudenti discussed the possibility with Jay Land or any other water extraction operator of the use of his property at Kepners and 895 as a tanker loading station?
  7. What is Mr: Verano getting behind the scenes in return for preparing the Act 537 plan?
  8. Has any supervisor suggested to a resident that the township might sell Bulichs Road?  Which supervisor(s), and to whom did they suggest this to?
  9. Has any supervisor spoken with Jay Land or any other person regarding rights of way that might be granted by the township to water extraction operations?
  10. Do the supervisors think it is appropriate to be making deals with individual business owners that involve selling or granting rights to township property, in lieu of other solutions such as bonding and posting of roads?
  11. When are the supervisors through actions going to start looking out for the health safety and welfare of West Penn citizens, which is their responsibility?

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Jay Land files petition to require West Penn Township residents to post bond in order for appeal of water extraction permit to proceed

In January 2015, landowner David Knoedler under the business name Ringgold Acquisition Group II LLC obtained a zoning permit to extract water on his land for agricultural use.  Sometime thereafter, water tankers known to be operating for local water pimp Jay Land were seen leaing the site.  At West Penn BOS meetings, Land stated that the water was being taken off site to "water fields we own".  Dubious landowners (who first found out a permit had been issued only months later) determined the full exent of this line of bull shit in October 2016 his trucks began run 24 hours a day, and neighbor's tap water began running brown.

In February 2017, residents filed a request (complaint) that the zoning officer revoke Ringgold's permit, because #1) it was issued in error and #2) the terms of the permit had not been met.  This was reported on this site here.

The Zoning Officer failed to act on the complaint, and in response residents filed a formal appeal for an interpretation by the Zoning Heard Board, on April 27, 2017.  This appeal is tentatively scheduled to be heard Monday June 12, 2017.  The application's attachments are identical to and include the complaint filed in February.  Here is the 4-page application.

Late last week, Jay Land as owner/operator of the water extraction operation being run on the Knoedler property, filed a petition in county court to require the residents that filed this zoning appeal to file a bond.   The posting if such a bond is specifically provided for in the Municipalities Planning Code, to prevent those who have received approval to not be subjected to frivolous complaints:

The onus is on the petitioner (Land) to prove the appeal is frivolous.  Interestingly, Land argues in the petition (below see items 11 and 16) that he has been shipping "spring water" since construction began - Land has no DEP permit to ship spring water.  A permit is required if a water seller sells to a bottling company owned by someone else.  Land is not treating the water, or testing it.  Both are required.  At the West Penn December 2015 Board of Supervisors meeting, Land said he ships water from Fort Franklin for use on farm fields:

No offense, but that sounds like a crock of shit Land unloaded at the December 8, 2015 BOS meeting.
Here is Land's petition:

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Penn Forest Township ZHB denies permit approval for Iberdrola Atlantic Wind turbine farm

As reported in the Times News, the Penn Forest Zoning Hearing Board review of a special exception application for a wind turbine farm, to be placed in a heavily wooded natural watershed area, was denied this evening.

This blogger attended three hearings ot of perhaps 6 or 7, at which experts testified on behalf of objectors to the impact this development would have on the environment and the citizens of Penn Forest Township.  A special exception use is a permitted use, but one that provides for conditions to protect the health safety and welfare of citizens.  Atlantic Wind must have sensed the winds that were blowing, because as testimony by objectors was coming to a close last summer, Atlantic Wind took a bizarre course of action and attempted to have the ZHB replaced by a judge.  This is after numerous hearings and hours and hours of testimony.  If this motion had been granted, how on earth would a judge or other entity replace the ZHB without the hearings starting over?

It is reported that this evening, Atlantic Wind did not appear for the hearing, and that after hearing some more objectors speak, the ZHB met in closed session and voted to reject the application.

This is fascinating to this observer.  Atlantic Wind filed a legal notice a few weeks ago, claiming it is entitled to "deemed approval" because the ZHB did not adjudicate the matter in the time frame as prescribed by the Municipalities Planning Code.  The reason the ZHB stopped meeting was because Atlantic Wind's unprecedented argument to have the ZHB replaced was being heard by the County Court of Common Pleas.  In this observer's opinion, Atlantic Wind realized last fall that its application would be denied, and is now resorting to strong arm tactics to force its way into this community.

You can be certain that this matter has not been fully resolved.  One can expect that Atlantic Wind will now pursue a dual course of appealing the ZHB's decision at the COCP (the correct jurisdiction for that), as well as pursue its claim of deemed approval.  It will be interesting to see if the ZHB agreed with objectors that variances that had not been sought were required, found that there were no conditions that could be placed on the applicant that would sufficiently protect the citizens, or came to some other conclusion.  Since a special exception use is a permitted use, they are hard to defeat in a manner that stands up to the appeal process.  Stay tuned.

Wind Farm Hearing in Penn Forest Township continues tonight after 9 month delay due to legal gymnastics by applicant - attempts deemed approval

Iberdrola (Atlantic Wind) went through several well attended meetings at the Penn Forest Fire Company last year, in a review of its Special Exception Hearing before the Zoning Hearing Board.  These meetings drew maybe 200-250 people, and while occasionally a few members of the audience would yell out comments, the meetings generally went without incident.  There was testimony by numerous experts, and a couple from western PA who testified about the negative impact a wind farm has had on their health and property values.

In September, Atlantic Wind filed a motion with the Carbon County Court of Common Pleas to have an independent hearing officer appointed, and for the remainder of proceedings to be held at the court house.  Atlantic Wind claimed that one or more people representing Atlantic Wind felt their safety was at risk.  Naturally the ZHB opposed this motion.

In February, a judge ruled against Atlantic Wind's motion, finding that the court does not have jurisdiction.  The provision in the Municipalities Planning Code to appoint an independent hearing officer grants only the Zoning Hearing Board this authority.  Atlantic Wind then requested of the county commissioners that the venue for the remaining ZHB proceedings take place at the court house - a request unopposed by the ZHB.  In late Mach, this request was denied by the county commissioners, citing a short list of reasons.

The next hearing for Atlantic Wind's proposal is tonight at 6pm.  Atlantic Wind, scum suckers that they are, and afraid of having their application denied on meritorious grounds, filed two weeks ago what is called a notice of deemed approval.  Deemed approval is provided for when a municipality fails to review a proposed project in the time provided for in the MPC.  In this case, the delays that have taken place have all been due to Atlantic Wind's legal maneuvering - not due to Penn Forest's lack of effort to complete the review in good faith.  This blogger is told there is record of communications between Atlantic Wind and Penn Forest that will document that an ongoing effort was being made to schedule the next meeting.

Most of the testimony and evidence in this case has been entered into the record.  It will be interesting to see this matter dusted off and brought to a conclusion.

Eldred Township voters reject remnants of corrupt administration that would have allowed Nestle Waters to extract 200,000 gallons of water a day

In a stroke of unparalleled gall, two officials from an administration that the evidence shows conspired to lay out the red carpet to water scavenger Nestle Waters ran for office this year.  Darcy Gannon, the mother of former Supervisor Gretchen Gannon Pettit (the girlfriend of Nestle lease holder Rick Gower), was the Planning Commission secretary during the time a critical and illegal zoning change was made that allowed Nestle to file its application.  Ellerslie "Bub" Dimwit Helm was the zoning officer when Nestle's application was filed.  These two specimens got on the ballot this year, Gannon for Tax Collector and Helm for Supervisor - apparently as some sort of payback to the forces that rose to defeat Nestle as well as sweep the trash out of the township offices.

This blogger met Helm in December 2015, prior to Nestle filing its application.   He came across as a bit of a buffoon, but on the subject of the Gower property he had an opinion and he wasn't hesitant to express it - Gower had extra water and he had a right to sell it.  Helm's job is not to opine on what he feels someone has a right to do.  His job is to enforce the zoning ordinance, but he clearly did not understand this. A few weeks later, Nestle submitted its application, and Helm issued a one paragraph review that he didn't even sign his name to, finding no deficiencies.  The township engineer's reviews found numerous deficiencies, one being that Nestle and Gower had already blocked a road across the property used to access lots off site.  Helm was on the Gower property, and either didn't notice this or didn't care.  Having met the man, both are possible.  Helm is the 10 watt bulb that slipped into the 100 watt package.  Helm was unceremoniously and abruptly shown the door once the stark discontinuity between his "review" and that of the engineer was observed.

Gannon is a horse of a different color.  Let's talk about her daughter first - mother's pride.  Gannon-Pettit called the county in her role as supervisor, and directed them to name a path that traveled off her boyfriend's property and onto a neighbor's property, continuing to a public road.  The boyfriend was issued a sign by the county and he erected it.  This illegal "road" was intended as a second access to the boyfriend's lot so he could lease the rest to one of his failed business ventures - in this case Nestle.  OK, so Ms. Gannon thence conspired with the lawyer representing her cherished Gretchen's boyfriend, who appeared before the Planning Commission and made misrepresentations on behalf of his client.  Gannon surreptitiously transmitted draft minutes of this meeting to the lawyer, who altered them to misrepresent what transpired during the meeting and returned them through the daughter's email to Gannon, with a note "thanks, let's get together and do lunch."  Gannon adopted the lawyer's alterations verbatim.  Once Gannon's actions were discovered, she was shown the door.

This story would be incomplete without mentioning another member of the conspiracy, Supervisor Sharon Solt.  Solt was the township Treasurer, Secretary, Supervisor, etc etc.  She was in a position to get whatever needed getting done, done, for the right people.  It was just recently discovered that she failed to send W-2s for township employees to Social Security in 2011 and 2012, resulting in fines to the township of $2807.70.  Solt and Gannon-Pettit successfully pushed through the purchase of the Eldred Township School, which came with roughly $50,000 per year operating costs, to use as a community center.  Only over a year later would the community be told that Nestle would give it about $30,000 per year - which one can easily surmise Solt and Gannon-Pettit had secretly planned to use to help defray costs.  Solt and Gannon-Pettit, as supervisors, were instrumental in passing the illegal amendment that allowed Nestle to pursue an application for the boyfriend's property.

Gannon-Pettit and Solt attempted unsuccessfully to replace long time treasurer and hater of this blog author Helen Mackes, who retired as of Dec 31 2015, with Gannon in the last 2 month's of the outgoing administration.  This attempt was blocked by people who knew enough about Gannon's actions to create a public spectacle and that cronyism was halted in its tracks.

The crowning achievement of the conspiracy to bring Nestle to town was that someone, and it could have only been one of a few people, called the Pocono Record advertising department and requested that the authorized text of a legal notice of the amendment in question be altered in a manner that concealed its effect to the public.

On just June 8 last year, Nestle withdrew its application as its deficiencies were becoming crystal clear during zoning hearing board review.  It is hard to believe that Gannon and Helm thought the community had forgotten the expensive and painful mess that their malfeasance and incompetence had caused.  It has not.

Here are the results:

Supervisor (vote for 1)
Gary Hoffman (D)  86 votes
Ellerslie "Bub" Dimwit Helm (D)  54 votes

Tax Collector (vote for 1)
Lenna Kuehner (D) 58 votes
Mindy Harris (D) 45 votes
Darcy "Lets Do Lunch" Gannon (D) 40 votes

It is frightening to see that Helm and Gannon received as many votes as they did.  Those who voted for them are the kind that would change the ordinance to allow forest near residential areas to be plowed down to put in race tracks and gun ranges, and abandon an easement to the township from the Rod & Gun Club for a Rail Trail.  In other words take Eldred Township back 10 steps.

The voters have spoken.  They have not forgotten what you did.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Review of Synagro Crap Bakery before Plainfield Township Planning Commission (Slate Belt Heat Recovery Center) moved to June 12, 2017

Synagro's Crapshit Plans A and B

The regularly scheduled Planning Commission meeting scheduled for June 19, 2017 to review Synagro's two grossly deficient site plans (Crapshit Plan A and Crapshit Plan B) for a 400 ton per day crap bakery has been moved forward to June 12, 2017.  It will be held from 7:00pm to 10:30pm at the Wind Gap Middle School.

Crapshit Plan A

Synagro's first site plan, submitted in October and updated in December, proposes to locate a solid waste biosolids plant in Plainfield's Commercial/Industrial zoning district, on a property that already has a principal use - Waste Management's business and logistics operations for its landfill.  As one might expect, Synagro's proposed use is permitted in Plainfield's Solid Waste zoning district (duh), not in the Commercial/Industrial zoning district.  Why Synagro's engineer was foolish enough to propose a solid waste use not in the Solid Waste district is one of those mysteries of life.  He's supposed to be a professional.  A clue is this dumb ass works for EarthRes, which prostitutes itself for some really controversial companies, such as Synagro and Nestle Waters - so incompetence or willful deceit are not out of the question.

Synagro has submitted a variance application to add a principal use, but it has NOT filed a variance application for a non-permitted use - the most difficult variance of all to be obtained.  Locating a solid waste use outside the solid waste district is similar to setting up an offtrack betting parlor in a residential zone - ain't gonna happen.

There are at least two more variances Synagro would need for this Site Plan to be approved - for less than the required acreage and having only one access drive instead of the two required.  To see how and when Synagro's Crapshit Plan A went down the crapper, click here.

Crapshit Plan B

Synagro's second site plan, submitted in March, takes Crapshit Plan A to a whole nother level.  While the proposed use is on subdivided portion of the Waste Management landfill parcel in the Solid Waste zoning district (a permitted use), it would:
  • Locate a parking lot and access drive over a pond (zoning ordinance requires a 50' setback)
  • Require development on over 1 acre of steep slopes (not permitted).
  • Provide bidirectional access paths (not permitted) and only one to a road.  The other would be via a neighboring lot through the backyard (not permitted).
  • Require using a neighboring parcel for loading and unloading operations (not permitted).
  • Relocate an accessory use of a business in the Solid Waste District to a lot in the Commercial/Industrial district (accessory uses are accessory to a principal use on the same lot)
  • Only provide 1.7 acres of usable space, while the Ordinance requires 5 acres
Synagro has filed 0 variance requests for Crapshit Plan B, even though it appears to need about 13 variances.  To see a breakdown of the variances required click here.

The zoning officer and alternate zoning officer issued a scathing 16-page review of this site plan on April 11, and as of today over a month later no response has been received from Synagro.  Nada.

Purpose of reviews on June 12

In light of the gross lack of compliance of Synagro's proposals with the Ordinance, and virtually total lack of hardship to obtain needed variances, a very fair question is "what is the purpose of Synagro appearance on June 12?"  Damned good question! (to see an analysis of how the variance hardships are not met for either proposal, click here)

A variance requires Planning Commission review prior to being heard by the Zoning Hearing Board.  Thus, applicants typically have their variances reviewed while before the Planning Commission with their site plan.  Why would they want to come back, and spend more money on lawyers and engineers?  As of this date, Synagro has filed no additional variance requests, and it will need to.  Edit: The deadline for filing new paperwork is 3 weeks prior to the meeting - Monday May 22 in this case.  Given the absurdly non-compliant nature of both site plans, it is expected something additional will be filed by Monday. Perhaps a withdrawal of the plans, but don't count on it.  Waste Management wants this very badly, for reasons unknown.  More than just rent.

Looking at Synagro's two site plans, each is what is in the state of what would be considered to be a "sketch plan".  A plan that presents a concept, and asks for a review but not approval.  There is simply no way either one of these plans can obtain approval on June 12, or any other night for that matter. The purpose of Synagro's appearance on June 12 is is a mystery to this author.  Maybe they want to talk crapshit, or sling some crapshit around and see if any cling-ons stick to the walls.  It will be interesting.

Synagro and Waste Management plot for a windfall, yet they have
no site to hatch the dirty egg and the fantasy is about to evaporate before their eyes

Township notice of June 12 Planning Commission meeting

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Waste Management quietly files application for expanded operations to add liquid waste processing/disposal to Plainfield Township/Pen Argyl Grand Central landfill

On March 29, 2016 Waste Management quietly submitted an application to expand its Plainfield Township landfill's operations to include the disposal of virtually any liquid waste.  Currently WM can only dispose of solid waste and sludge.  This plan (described in the document below) involves mixing the liquid waste with a solidification agent in a huge vat on the landfill site prior to disposal. 

A DEP spokesperson said that there have been a few meetings to discuss this application, and the DEP has not taken official action but has serious reservations of Synagro's plan to conduct these operations at this site.

Bend over and grab yer ankles, Slate Belt residents.  Waste Management is on a never ending quest to truck in the most profitable and objectionable waste that it can, and dispose of it in your backyard.

Waste Management Files Application to Expand Plainfield Township/Pen Argyl Permit with Solidification of L...

Friday, April 21, 2017

Plan B for biosolids plant in Plainfield Township hits skid mark row, as Synagro requests yet again for its plans to be tabled

Synagro has submitted site plans for two different sites proposed to be leased from Waste Management, to locate a 400 ton per day crap (biosolids) plant.  These sites are near the Green Knight Energy Center's methane to electricity plant, which is on a parcel also leased from Waste Management.  It was just announced that Synagro will again delay review of its plans.

According to press releases, the Synagro plant represents a "17 year effort by Green Knight Economic Development Corporation to make use of waste heat at the Green Knight Energy Center."  In fact, the plan lasted less than a few years, because it was never intended to locate a consumer of the waste heat on Waste Management property - the plan was to miraculously find a consumer who would locate on one or more parcels on the land now owned by Techo Bloc.  When Techo Bloc announced it had no use for the Energy Center's waste heat, and that it wanted all three parcels, the plan died.  Now we are asked to believe Green Knight has been working diligently since 2000 to find the right customer for the waste heat, and that shoehorning a biosolids plant into 1) where it isn't permitted or 2) where it is permitted but only 30% of the required space is available is the culmination of that hard work, which is a load of hooey.

For Synagro's part, they misrepresented at the November 2016 Planning Commission meeting that their proposed plant "meets all zoning requirements", yet oops, it isn't even a permitted use where they proposed it.  They are supposed to have professional engineers that check minor details like that.

In March, Synagro announced in a press release that they submitted a "building permit" which isn't even possible, for a new site where their use is permitted (congratulations for getting that part right), and that after a "three month ... comprehensive redesign" they have arrived at a new application in "that fully complies with the zoning officer's determination" the first plan was a non-starter.  That may be true, but the press release omits the fact that the new design deviates significantly from several other requirements of the Ordinance.  This is brought to Synagro's attention in the township's 16-page response to the new application.  It requires approximately 13 variances, most of them use variances - not minor dimensional shortcomings.  And Synagro does not have the hardships to merit the variances.

On April 19, Synagro announced it will table both Plan A (October/December site plan for first site) and Plan B (March site plan for alternate site).  What will they do next?  Fill in the quarry hole on the alternate site?  That will solve some issues, but they still have a major problem - access.  The Ordinance requires access to this plant be via an Arterial or Collector road.  Neither plan satisfies this requirement, and furthermore the new and improved plan requires use of Plainfield Township property as an access drive to access the site.  Synagro's site plan doesn't even show that Plainfield Township owns this land.- a deficiency (label added by blogger showing owner and tax parcel).  Another crappy plan from a company that specializes in crap.

A road runs through it -Synagro rep Jim Hecht stated April 5 that he is unaware that the yellow shaded area is to be returned to Plainfield Township's use when the landfill closes, and Synagro plans to continue operating after that.  Note Synagro's trucks must use township property.  Bummer, dudely.

No one except Waste Management, Green Knight and Synagro wants this plant in Plainfield Township.  There is no site that satisfies the Ordinance.  Pack it in and descend on another community where you are wanted - if you can find one.
Synagro announces it will not appear at May 2017 Planning Commission meeting for review of its two Site Plans

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Analysis: Synagro can not meet variance criteria for Plainfield Township Slate Belt biosolids plant sites

The whimsically named "Slate Belt Heat Recovery Center," which would be more aptly named "Synagro Biosolids Plant" has been proposed for two sites in Plainfield Township.  Both are owned by Waste Management, are located on parcels divided by a former rail trail that is owned by Plainfield Township and currently being used as a Waste Management and Green Knight Energy Center service road, and it is proposed that the land for either site would be leased to Synagro.  One site is in the Commercial Industrial Zoning District, on a parcel on which Waste Management has its offices and truck terminal, and the other is in the Solid Waste Zoning District spanning parcels on which the landfill and Green Knight Energy Center are located.  Lot lines are proposed to be removed and redrawn as shown:

Lot lines for each proposed Synagro site

Obviously, both of Waste Management's parcels (In Commercial Industrial and Solid Waste) are being put to very productive and lucrative use.  The landfill operation generates 10's of millions of dollars a year between the two parcels.  On its own small parcel, the Green Knight Energy Center clears about $800,000 a year on $1.8m of revenue..

We will examine the statewide criteria to be granted a variance, as specified in the Municipalities Planning Code.  It is important to understand that in Pennsylvania, a variance is intended to prevent an undue hardship on the property owner that makes it impossible for him to make use of his land.  A variance is not to be granted simply so he can make greater economic use of the land, and a variance is not to be granted if it is not in the public interest O'Neill vs. Zoning Board of Adjustment.  Additionally to achieve a variance "the spirit of the ordinance shall be observed, the public health, safety, and general welfare secured and substantial justice done" Richman vs. Zoning Bd. of Adjustment.  In short, a variance is to be granted in extraordinary circumstances.  Under the MPC, the Zoning Hearing Board "may grant a variance, provided that all of the following findings are made where relevant in a given case:
  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 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."
Remember, all of these criteria must be met.  We'll look at each proposal, and the problematic criteria.

Proposal for site in commercial industrial zoning district (October site plan)
The Site Plan for this site was previously found to require two Use variances - one for multiple uses on one lot, and one for a non-permitted use.  It actually needs more relief - the area allotted is less than four acres, and five are needed (Dimensional Variance), and there is only one access and two are needed (Use Variance).
  1. There are no unique size, shape or topographic characteristics of this site.
  2. Reasonable use is already being made of this lot - it houses the administrative and truck terminal operations of the landfill
  3. Any "hardship" argued is self-inflicted.  The sections of the Ordinance relief is needed to were in place when Waste Management bought the property from Grand Central.
  4. A variance would change the character of the neighborhood and impair adjacent uses and be detrimental to the public welfare.  The planned land use in the Comprehensive Plan for this site does not include solid waste processing; in fact this site is on land intended to be a buffer between solid waste uses and commercial and industrial uses along Route 512.  The Zoning Ordinance implements this land use goal in the uses permitted in the Commercial Industrial district.  A solid waste use past the lifetime of the landfill, currently estimated to be 2035 - would also have an impact on the public use of the adjacent township property (Recreational Trail) after the landfill closes.
Note that Synagro has been (the evidence suggests desperately) trying to find an alternate site for months, so they must believe they can not meet the criteria..

Proposal for site in solid waste zoning district (March site plan)
This site plan needs an Easter basket full of variances - thirteen by this blogger's count.  Nine Use Variances and four Dimensional Variances.
  1. There are unique characteristics on this portion of the lots proposed to be resubdivided.  However, this is less than 1% of the area of the Waste Management parcel that would be subdivided to create the site.
  2. Reasonable use is already being made of this lot - it houses the landfill.
  3. Any "hardship" argued is self-inflicted.  The sections of the Ordinance relief is needed to were in place when Waste Management bought the property from Grand Central, and before the last landfill expansion.
  4. A variance would change the character of the neighborhood and impair adjacent uses and be detrimental to the public welfare - by extending a solid waste use past the lifetime of the landfill, currently estimated to be 2035.  One element of this is the inability of the public to use the adjacent township property (Recreational Trail) after the landfill closes, as agreed to.
No relief is justified for either site
Let's return to the Supreme Court's opinions, cited above.  
  • The proposed plant is not in the public interest, on either site
  • Relief is only needed to make greater economic use of either plot of land, not to prevent the owner from enduring the hardship of owning an unusable parcel.
  • Both of these sites require variances that would result in a use that is not compatible with the spirit of the Ordinance.
Statutorily, as shown above of the five criteria that need to be satisfied, three are not satisfied on either site, and the fourth is arguable as satisfied on only one site.  Since all criteria must be met, neither proposal may be granted the requested relief.