June 6, 2000, Olean, NY-- Town backs away from landfill ban
By Rick Jozwiak.The Times Herald
The town of Farmersville is backing away from its proposal to ban all landfill development, including a 430-acre landfill off Route 98 in the town.

However, town officials will consider a proposed law that would give the town more power to regulate landfill operations. The new law, reworked since it was proposed late last year, had its wording regarding landfill prohibition removed, but it gives the town more regulatory authority than first proposed.

The newly rewritten law was titled Local Law Number 1 of 2000, which will amend the town’s Solid Waste Disposal Law of 1991. Before the Town Board takes action on the proposed law, a public hearing regarding the changes is scheduled for June 14 at the town hall.

The 1991 Solid Waste Disposal Law outlines the town’s regulatory powers and stipulates how a landfill developer must design, build and operate a landfill within the town. The proposed law would amend that law, affecting how Southern Tier Waste Services Inc. can operate the landfill it has proposed to build on some 430 acres along Route 98.

The town had proposed prohibiting landfill development to bring the 10-year-old landfill issue to a close. But acting Town Supervisor Frederick Zuech said that would have violated the town’s contract with the landfill developer.

“Unfortunately, we’re bound by a contract,” Mr. Zuech said. “We just felt that we wouldn’t be able to prohibit (a landfill) and win. We’re trying to stay within our legal limits and do what’s best for the town and avoid any further litigation from anybody.”

The new version of the law was recently given to town officials, and copies are available to the public. The new law was written by town attorneys based on their legal advice and the recommendations of the town’s engineers working on the landfill issue, Mr. Zuech said. Under the town’s contract with Southern Tier Waste, the landfill developer pays for the town to hire independent engineers.

Opponents to the proposed landfill see the new law as an improvement compared to the first version.

Gary Abraham, an environmental law attorney, reviewed a copy of the newly rewritten law and said, “This looks like a very different law than the first amendment, and I think it’s a much stronger law than the first amendment.”

Mr. Abraham is a member of Concerned Citizens of Cattaraugus County and has been studying the Farmersville landfill issue for a decade. Concerned Citizens was founded by county residents shortly after plans for the landfill were announced a decade ago.
When Farmersville officials announced their proposal to ban landfill development in December, Concerned Citizens foresaw such a move would only open the town to a lawsuit it likely would not win. Instead, Concerned Citizens suggested the town simply repeal its solid waste disposal law, which would revert jurisdiction to the county.

State and local permits are required to build and operate a landfill, and under the 1991 Solid Waste Disposal Law, the town is bound to issue a permit once the state issues its permit. In theory, if the town rescinded the 1991 law, the authority to issue a local permit would revert to the county, which has stricter solid waste laws and more financial resources.
Mr. Zuech said town officials were advised by town attorney’s that such a move would be a breach of contract.

William Heitzenrater, president of Southern Tier Waste Services, has said his company is prepared to challenge any action the town takes to ban landfill development or further regulate landfill operations. Southern Tier Waste has also withheld paying nearly $49,000 in town and county taxes that were due in January.

Mr. Abraham said the proposed law is an improvement but said the town can do more to regulate Southern Tier Waste’s project. The 1991 law establishes the town’s regulatory powers regarding the landfill’s operation, like the amount of trash it can accept daily; limits on truck traffic; noise disturbance; and landfill monitoring procedures. But the 1991 law does not limit the town’s authority to further regulate the landfill’s design and construction, he said.
“We’ll comment more on how to strengthen it in the future, but we like this law much more than the first amendment,” he said.

Another thing Mr. Abraham would like to see happen is more cooperation between the county and town. There is no prohibition regarding “intermunicipal cooperation,” and the state Legislature has historically supported cooperation between local governments, he said.
Conceivably, the county could provide the town with a financial gift to help pay for any litigation expenses that could stem from the town’s actions.

“There are plenty of good reasons for the county to support the town,” Mr. Abraham said.

Olean Times Herald, current issue

Concerned Citizens of Cattaraugus County

View the proposed Farmersville landfill regulations

View Cattaraugus County landfill regulations