Saturday, January 14, 2017

Waste Management buys another residential property in Plainfield Township, while partner Synagro searches for new site for biosolids plant

On January 9, 2017, a deed was filed transferring another residential property in Plainfield Township to Grand Central Sanitary Landfill (Waste Management).  Waste Management paid $325,000 for this property.  The address is 1863 Delabole Road, right next door to a house the landfill bought just two months ago for $350,000.  These are princely sums, considering the location.  Both are in Farm and Forest zoning - which does not permit solid waste operations.  The most recently purchased property is shown in yellow shading in the following diagram:

Waste Management is buying houses in Plainfield Township PA in an agricultural preservation/residential zoned area next to its landfill - could this be related to a planned expansion?

Jan 9, 2017 recorded transfer of one acre residential property from Tommy Messinger to Grand Central (Waste Management)

Possible reasons a trash dump is buying residential properties

Plainfield Township's Solid Waste Processing and Disposal (SW) district was created to host the landfill.  There are only three tax parcels in the SW district.  One is Evergreen Cemetery, one is a 4.35 acre site that is owned by the landfill and leased to Green Knight Energy Center, and the last and by far largest is the landfill.  The parcel with the landfill extends into the Farm and Forest zoning district, and that portion is adjacent to the houses the landfill recently purchased.
Plainfield Township's Solid Waste Zoning District - landfill parcel spans two zoning districts - click lower right corner to see full screen

There are three possible reasons that Waste Management is scooping up houses in this area.  
  1. Reduce complaints by and liability to homeowners against a perceived bad neighbor.  What if the incidence of throat cancer is inordinately high, for example?
  2. Expand the landfill (!).  Note that Perins own adjacent farmland to the east.
  3. Reduce the number of neighbors to a property you own contiguous with the landfill that could host the Synagro crap bakery.
The second and third require that the SW district be enlarged.  The landfill has already expanded to its boundaries, with the exception of steep and wooded areas along its western border with the Plainfield Township Recreational Trail.

Plainfield Township Zoning Map
For reference, here is the Zoning Map for Plainfield Township:

Synagro is reportedly considering sites within the SW district for biosolids plant
At the "information sessions" held this past week, multiple attendees report that they were told Synagro is considering sites within the SW district - they they haven't chosen a site yet.  The latter part of this is not true - Synagro has a Site Plan before the Plainfield Township Planning Commission, that they quietly submitted and had reviewed without notifying the public they were in town (even though their PR materials claim the public would participate in reviews):

Synagro Site Plan for solid waste processing plant in commercial industrial zoning district

Syangro's proposal to construct a biosolids plant that will process 400 tons of crap a day is for a site in the Commercial Industrial (CI) district to the northwest of the energy center - where it is not permitted, and a variance can not be granted for it.  Therefore, they will have to find a location within the SW district to locate the plant.  It is submitted that the only possible places to do this would be either in a low lying area along the Little Bushkill Creek on the left edge of the SW district, or in the field shown at the bottom right of the picture above, assuming the zoning of that area is changed to SW.  Another reason to buy houses is to reduce objections from homeowners to having zoning changed.  Waste Management isn't going to object to itself expanding the area for solid waste operations.

Waste Management and its predecessors are used to getting what they want in Plainfield Township, but residents are fed up with the odors from next door to miles away, reduced property values and reduced quality of life and are looking forward to the dump being closed.  Little wonder that the possibility of hosting a crap processing plant for decades after the dump closes is not acceptable.  Hosting a dump turns out to have its downside - go figure.  Money doesn't talk like it did prior to the elevation of the dump rising to compete with that of Blue Mountain.

It is rumored that more properties in the same area as those just purchased are under contract to Waste Management.  This story isn't over - these greedy people haven't shown all their cards yet.

Golden Turd awarded to Synagro, Green Knight Economic Development Corporation and Waste Management for deceit and misrepresentation

In its October 31, 2016 Site Plan submission, Synagro included a public relations document in which it boasted that the public would be notified of and take part in hearings.  The only one of these hearings thus far - not advertised to the public, was on November 21, 2016, when the Plainfield Township Planning Commission reviewed the Site Plan.  What happened to public participation?   Synagro issued a press release on November 22, 2016 informing the public of the meeting that happened the evening prior.  Lying and deceitful are words that come to mind.  That evening, Planning Commission Vice Chairman Robert Cornman Jr, who is also the Vice President of Green Knight Economic Development Corporation, suggested four times that Synagro's application could be forwarded with conditional approval.  Now it is known that Synagro's use is not even permitted where proposed in that site plan, and their pending application is a steaming pile of crap.   In recognition of his shameless and unsuccessful effort to push this nonsense through despite fellow members' reservations, Mr. Cornman was voted off the planning commission by a vote of 3-2 at the Plainfield BOS January 2017 reorganization meeting.  He earned it.

Talking shit - Joint public relations document submitted October 31 misrepresents that the proposed project meets zoning requirements and that the public will be notified of and participate in hearings

The public was not notified of the most important first review before the planning commission, at which a member with a conflict of interest attempted to move the application forward - a member who should have known the Site Plan violated the zoning ordinance.  Does this in any manner represent a cooperative and open partnership or dialog with the community?

For their stunning lack of public transparency and proposing a project that does not come close to satisfying zoning requirements, Synagro, Green Knight, and Waste Management have jointly earned the Golden Turd Award.  Congratulations - it looks smart on you.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Synagro dog and pony show is typical nonsense - media concentrates on wrong aspect of biosolids plant in Plainfield Township

Talking shit

Synagro, Waste Management and Green Knight Economic Development held "information sessions" on January 9 and January 10 in Plainfield Township and Pen Argyl.  They met expectations - a few stations here and there, with samples of dried shit, processed shit, green shit.  Smiling representatives of shit with pretty name tags on their shirts.  "Look, our shit is so safe you can eat it."

Reporters were there from the dailies.  One veteran walked out after 20 minutes, looking very unimpressed and like he was wondering why he was there.  Some of them had no clue.  Said one, "Synagro told me they have aren't sure where they are putting the plant."  This is bull shit.  The reporter had done no investigation into Synagro's plan - if they had, they would know that Synagro has a Site Plan currently under review, to locate its crap bakery where it requires two use variances.

The reporting on this project is lacking, to be kind.  BFD Ron Angle was interviewed by WFMZ - guess what he had to say?  Crap is safe to spread on fields.  Years ago, Angle was an ardent opponent to spreading sludge on fields.  The winds have shifted for Ron, but who the hell cares?  Interviewing Angle puts the cart before the horse - Synagro's plant is not permitted where they plan to put it.  The first question is where are you putting it, and is it permitted there?
Synagro Site Plan submitted December 5, 2016 - a reporter allowed Synagro to say they haven't chosen a site yet - clearly they have

This plant is not going to be permitted or denied on public sentiment.  Whether it obtains a permit or not is going to hinge on zoning.   Stay tuned for real reporting on this project, not the tip of the waves economic development fluff that sells newspapers.  A shit factory is coming, and it will smell and provide a couple of jobs.  Fill a two minute slot on the 5pm news.  Ron's a very smart guy who rubs some people the wrong way, and if you've heard him speak you know he can talk shit like nobody's business, but his opinions on sludge have no bearing on this project's approval.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Ancellary materials that provide background for questions for Synagro, Waste Management and Green Knight at informational meetings re: biosolids plant in Plainfield Township

Here are some background materials to preparing for asking questions of Synagro, Waste Management and Green Knight at the January 9 and January 10 information sessions.

The extensive post that these materials support is located here.

Look to the caption of each image on this page or section beneath it for an explanation of what it represents and its meaning.

This Waste 360 April 1, 2001 article (click to be directed to it) is an excellent primer on the Green Knight Energy Center, including that Green Knight expected to sell its waste heat and electricity to consumers in the Slate Belt Industrial Center.

In the article linked to above are these quotes/statements about the plans and intentions of Green Knight Economic Development Corporation (GKEDC):
  • The intent is for the Northampton County Industrial Development Authority (NCIDA) to construct a shell building on the 19 acre Slate Belt Industrial Center (SBIC) property.
  • "The intention is to transmit green power to that industrial park" (SBIC) to attract energy intensive businesses.  Harry Smith, Waste Management Community Affairs Manager
  • "We are just starting to solicit businesses to come to the area" Pete Albanese, GKEDC
  • GKEDC will be able to sell thermal energy to industries that could locate nearby.
  • "Our goals were to bring in a company that has high heat...requirements and also a decent number of jobs." Pete Albanese, GKEDC
  • "Even if we did nothing beyond the power plant, it makes money.  It's gravy if we can find a buyer for the wasted heat."  Mark Messics, Eastern Director WMI landfill gas-to-energy
What actually came to fruition:
  • NCIDA did not build the shell building, a developer did and reaped the profits
  • Techo Bloc bought the SBIC "industrial park" property in 2003, and has no use for the energy center's waste heat
  • Green Knight and Waste Management failed in their goal to bring a heavy user of energy to the SBIC or any other available site nearby that could consume the energy center's waste heat
Now, Waste Management is seeking to revitalize its failed plan to create "gravy", as Mr. Messics refers to it, by violating zoning and locating a heavy user of waste heat with a low number of poorly paying jobs (16, with salaries as low as $35K a year) on its own already used property.

June 5, 2001 Northampton County Council minutes show intent was for one or more consumers of Green Knight Energy Center's waste heat to be located in the 19.3 acre "Slate Belt Industrial Center" - what became Techo Bloc in 2003.  Finding a tenant for this property turned into an act of desperation, so Green Knight could not wait for an energy consumer to come along.  2 lots that were supposed to add to the profit realized were not developed but bought much cheaper as bare land by Techo Bloc.  Techo Bloc had no use for Green Knight's waste heat, so that ruined Green Knight's plan.  Now, they are acting like finding Synagro is the culmination of a concerted 17-year effort, when in fact their plan to sell waste heat was ruined when they could not find a legal consumer of their energy for what became the Techo Bloc property.

The quote above is from John Kingsley, the Executive Director of the Northampton County Industrial Authority, which owned the property known as Slate Belt Industrial Center at the time of these comments.

Today, Green Knight boasts about bringing Techo Bloc to Plainfield Township, but the fact of the matter is Techo Bloc's purchase of the property allowed the county to get out with minimal loss of a mostly failed and unprofitable endeavor.

Green Knight Energy Center Land Development Plan shows "Future Heat Recovery" and newspaper articles and official minutes of Northampton County in 2001 reflect that Green Knight's intent was to sell its waste energy to one or more users in the Slate Belt Industrial Center, approximately 500' north of Green Knight's site, and today owned by Techo Bloc.

Grand Central Landfill owned by Perin family is sold to USA Waste Services, Inc in 1996
Click image to read article

USA Waste Services merges with Waste Management in 1998, Grand Central name retained at Plainfield Township landfill
Click image to read article

Current zoning ordinance article that applies to site targeted by Synagro
There is no solid waste processing provided for in this district

1989 Zoning Map, showing target site was in Farm and Forest at that time - one principal use.
The Solid Waste (SW) district was as it is in 2017, and the only district that permitted Synagro's use.
Thus, there has been no zoning change that Waste Management can argue has limited its use since Grand Central was purchased - in fact, the change from FF to CI increased the number of permitted uses to choose from on its lot

2017 Zoning Map showing proposed site in CI district where one principal use is permitted
and Synagro's use is specifically not listed as a permitted use

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