Sunday, January 8, 2017

Questions to ask Synagro, Waste Management and Green Knight Economic Development Corporation a

When and where?
There are public information sessions scheduled on January 9 and January 10 as shown on the right margin of this blog, to allow the public to find out about the proposed Synagro operation that would be located on one of two large lots owned by Waste Management/Grand Central Sanitary Landfill in Plainfield Township.  Newspaper articles refer to these as "meetings," but they won't be...

What not to expect
If you read newspaper articles about these information sessions, and/or have been to similar gatherings, you can expect not to have a group setting where members of the public can ask questions of a panel, and have them answered.  Reporters sitting in the audience taking notes.  That ain't gonna happen, because a forum like that would allow difficult questions to be heard by all, as well as the responses.

What to expect
What you will find is some stations/displays with public relations nonsense, such as pretty pictures showing the green-ness of capturing waste heat, trucks coming in loaded with crap, and trucks going out delivering crap to farms near you.  But there will be representatives somewhere, to engage you in chit chat about their colorful displays, green energy and frankly - shit.  They'll want to tell you about how their shit doesn't smell.  I'd suggest you don't play that game - if you're comfortable with them, go straight to one of more of the hard-hitting ball-buster questions that will cut them off at the knees.  You'll clearly send the message that your intent is not to deal with their shit, but to mess it up.

What questions might you ask?
If I were concerned about this project, either because I live near the plant and don't want to smell more shit, or because I was concerned about metals and pathogens becoming airborne or washing into the Walz or Little Bushkill Creeks, or into my well from farms where the shit were distributed, I would not spend my time and effort talking about metals and pathogens and pollution.  I would concentrate my questioning on that fact that this business is not permitted where it is proposed.  If they can't put it there, why talk about what will happen if they do?
Let's spend our time wisely.  Before singing the praises of your project, please explain to me why the zoning doesn't apply to you

Cliffs Notes version
If what you see on the page beneath this section looks Greek or geek to you, what you could do is:

  1. Ask one or more of the questions found here (click).
  2. Simply say the following to someone who represents Synagro, and walk away (having said something that is true):
"You have no right for your operation to be placed on Waste Management's property, and therefore I don't care if your shit is or isn't hazardous or it does or doesn't smell.  You have no hardship to get zoning relief and you're wasting everyone's time and money."
A few concepts
This may not come natural to you, but the basic concept is certain uses are permitted in each zoning district, and the number permitted and level of impact on neighboring uses varies by district.  Multiple principal uses are actually permitted in the Solid Waste district, but not on the site proposed in the CI district.  Another concept to know is the difference between accessory and principal use - an accessory use is one customary to be associated with the principal use.  For example, a garage is an accessory use to a residence, the residence would be the principal use.  One more concept is that there are two kinds of variances - dimensional and use.  Dimensional is you want your building taller than allowed, or closer to the property line than setbacks allow.  Use is much more hard to justify, because it is a use that is not permitted at all.  Perhaps 30% of dimensional variances are justified, but only 10% of use variances.  A justified use variance would be if none of the permitted uses could reasonably be developed on the lot, making it impossible for the owner to make use of the lot.  Note this lot is being used already.

Questions for Synagro and Waste Management
1. Ask Synagro and Waste Management why there are proposing to site this operation where it is not permitted.
  • It is an additional principal use on a lot that is permitted to have one.  This lot is where Waste Management/Grand Central has its truck terminal - a substantial and profitable principal use
  • It is not a permitted use in this district, but is elsewhere.  This is a biggie.  This use was provided for in the township,. but not in this district.  Go the hell away with your crap bakery, unless the owner has a hardship.  Not a hard-on to make even more money than you are currently - but a hardship.
These are both use variances, which have a high standard of demonstrating hardship in order to be approved.

USA Waste bought Grand Central in 1996, and Waste Management merged with USA Waste in 1998.  Therefore, the current owner was aware of the zoning and permitted uses when it purchased the property, which have not changed since 1989.  Synagro's use was never permitted on the proposed site in the CI Commercial Industrial district; it was always permitted in the SW solid waste zoning district.

Note: the research that supports the dates that the landfill changed hands, as well as the current zoning for the CI district, are located here.

2. Ask what their hardships are, because if they don’t have them they are wasting everyone’s time and money.  The variance request they have filed for multiple principal uses does not demonstrate a single hardship.  Also ask why they have not filed a variance request for having a non-permitted use – solid waste processing but not in the solid waste processing district.

(Optional) If you feel you understand the variance criteria (below) and the concept of hardships, ask Synagro to explain its nonsensical variance application (below) for multiple principal uses.  When they can't explain it and show a hardship, tell them they have no right to put their operation where proposed.

Questions for Green Knight
3. Ask Green Knight to explain what their initial plan for use of their waste heat energy was.  The answer is, it was to be sold to one or more of three possible businesses on parcels adjacent to the target property in what was the Slate Belt Industrial Center, parcels that were ultimately merged to create the 19.3 acre site Techo Bloc developed – lands that Waste Management actually donated for development.  Synagro’s solid waste use was never permitted on that site either – so it could not have been located there even if Techo Bloc had never purchased their property.

Note: the research that supports who the intended consumer(s) of Green Knight Energy Center's waste heat was is here.

4. Then ask Green Knight why they haven’t given up on what is being reported as a “17-year long plan” to sell their waste heat, since a consumer never developed on sites adjacent to Grand Central’s lands.  They are now trying to pound a square peg into a round hole, by violating zoning to place a consumer where it is not permitted without two major variances.  The plan to sell waste heat died when Techo Block purchased all of the Slate Belt Industrial Center land in 2003.

5. Then ask if Green Knight promotes responsible economic development in the Pen Argyl School District - the sole beneficiary of its charter.  If so, why are they promoting this project in our community?  The target site is supposed to be a buffer between the solid waste district (ie landfill) and uses along Route 512 (W. Pennsylvania Ave), and locating a solid waste use in that buffer violates the intent of the comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance.  How is this responsible development?

6. Ask Synagro to see its Proof of Equitable Ownership - it's lease agreement with Waste Management that spells out the terms of the lease and what happens when the landfill is full o' shit and closes down.  Synagro has stated they plan to keep processing shit after the closure.  Without Proof of Equitable Ownership, Synagro has no right to pursue an application.  If you ask this question, they'll know you're not going to be satisfied with a line of shit - which is what they hope.

What to bring with you
Here are some materials you may want to bring, if you feel comfortable asking one or more of the questions above.  Images that correspond to the numbered items in the list are at the bottom of this post.
  1.  The five criteria dictated by the PA Municipalities Planning Code, detailing hardships necessary for a variance to be granted.  Specifically look at criteria #2.  Anyone can see this lot is already being used to the capacity (one principal use) provided for by the ordinance.  All these have to be met.  Next look at criteria #4 and reference the site plan that you will bring with you (#4 in this list) - this lot specifically was intended to be a buffer between the landfill in SW district and uses along Route 512 W. Pennsylvania Ave.  Allowing Synagro's solid waste use on this site would eliminate that buffer.  Criteria #2 and #4 are not met.
  2. Zoning Officer opinion dated Dec 15, 2016 finding that Synagro requires use variances for multiple principal uses and a non-permitted use
  3. 1989 and current zoning ordinance citations, showing that the zoning of where Synagro's planned operation is permitted has not changed since 1989 - when purchased by Waste Management's subsidy USA Waste, the location (SW Solid Waste District) is the same as it is today.
  4. Site plan that shows where the proposed site is, where the landfill and energy center are, and where Green Knight 17 years ago was hoping to legally have business customers (one use per tax parcel) that could have used its waste heat - the Slate Belt Industrial Center.
  5. Site plan of the Techo Bloc site, prior to development, that shows the location of the proposed energy customer(s) Green Knight Energy Center hoped to sell waste heat to.  This was called the "Slate Belt Industrial Center".  Ask them - they won't like you asking, but this is where they intended to sell waste heat, and it would have been permitted, but they could not find a business that would use it.  Now they are literally attempting to sell the community a pile of shit that has no right being where they propose.
  6. (Optional) Synagro's variance application for more than one principal use per lot.  You may want to question them about this pile of crap - because their argument is that there are and have been historically multiple uses on the lot - which is nonsense.  In 2014, they needed a variance to add a principal use of retail CNG pump.  That makes two principal uses currently, and they didn't meet the required criteria in 2014 for adding the second one - but variances are on a case by case basis, not precedential.  Being granted one in 2014 through an error of law doesn't have any bearing on if they merit one in 2017.
1.Uniform statewide variance criteria from the Muncipalities Planning Code that must all be met to earn a use variance

2. Zoning Officer Opinion that Synagro needs two use variances

3a. 1989 Ordinance citation shows the same uses as today's, including Synagro's (#3), permitted in the SW district, NOT the CI district, so Waste Management can't argue the ordinance changed since they purchased
3b. Current ordinance citations, showing Synagro's use of Material Separation Faciity is a permitted use in the SW district

4. Site Plan showing proposed site in CI district, adjacent landfill in SW district, and adjacent Techo Bloc site which was known as Slate Belt Industrial Center - location Green Knight's intended waste heat consumer(s)

5. Original plan of Techo Bloc site - 3 businesses, one or more would use Energy Center's waste heat

6. Synagro's application for a use variance to add a principal use to Waste Management site

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