June 15, Olean, NY--
Farmersville move draws lawsuit
By Rick Jozwiak.The Times Herald
FARMERSVILLE — After hearing comments from about a dozen people Wednesday, the Town Board unanimously approved amending the town’s Solid Waste Disposal Law of 1991.

The amendment strengthens the town’s authority to regulate landfills and specifically affects a 423-acre landfill proposed by Southern Tier Waste Services of Niagara Falls. Representatives from Southern Tier Waste said they will challenge the amendment with a lawsuit.

The amendment passed Tuesday was a rewrite of an amendment proposed in December. The first version banned any new landfill, but that wording was removed from the amendment approved Wednesday. Town officials were advised by the town attorney and engineers that such a ban would have breached Farmersville’s contract with Southern Tier Waste.

About 40 people turned out for Wednesday’s public hearing on the amendment. William Heitzenrater, president of Southern Tier Waste, and the developer’s attorney, Gregory P. Photiadis, were among the dozen speakers.

They said Southern Tier Waste could not accept two parts of the amendment because they affect the economics of the proposed landfill. Mr. Heitzenrater said one point of contention in the amendment reduces the slope so much that it would reduce the amount of garbage the landfill can take by about 15 percent. He said that would cut into the landfill’s profit margin by about $1.95 a ton.

Southern Tier Waste would abide by that part of the amendment if the town would reduce its royalty fees by that amount, Mr. Heitzenrater said. The royalty fees are payments to the town for every ton of garbage received at the landfill. If the town agreed, its fees would be cut by more than half.

The amendment also increased the percentage of soil that had to be used from the landfill site in building and operating the landfill. Certain soils are used because of their particular properties, and forcing Southern Tier Waste to use more soil from the landfill site would jeopardize the landfill’s integrity, Mr. Heitzenrater said. Typically, the needed soils would be trucked to the landfill. Mr. Photiadis said changing the percentage would increase excavation at the landfill and harm the surrounding environment.

The town’s nearly 10-year-old contract with Southern Tier Waste stipulates that the landfill is exempt from any laws and regulations passed after the contract was signed, he said.

If the town passes the amendment, he said, that would be considered a breach of contract and jeopardize the town’s royalty fees. The fees are only guaranteed by the contract. If the town violates the contract, Southern Tier Waste would be no longer be obligated to honor it, he said.

After the hearing, Town Board member Dale Scurr said a clause in the Solid Waste Disposal Law allows the town to make regulatory changes.

Section 8C of the law states, “Nothing herein shall be deemed to be a waiver of or restriction upon any rights and powers available to the town of Farmersville to further regulate the subject matter of this local law.”
“We’ve done a lot of research, and we’ve done what we feel is right,” Mr. Scurr said.

Board member Carl Fridman said, “We feel that this is what we should have done. We didn’t restrict the landfill, we just came up with rules and regulations they’ll have to abide by.”

After the 45-minute hearing, the board approved an environmental assessment of the amendment finding it does not harm the environment. That action was followed by approval of the amendment.

Frederick Zuech, acting town supervisor, said the board acted Tuesday because “we were comfortable with all the updates we had done, and we strengthened the law within our legal rights. We didn’t see putting it off any longer making any difference.

“We’re allowed to amend our law and update it, and that’s what we did,” Mr. Zuech added. “It’s a 1991 law and here it is 2000; we’re just keeping up with the times.”

Mr. Heitzenrater said Southern Tier Waste is still working on its application to the state Department of Environmental Conservation for a permit for the landfill. He doesn’t see this amendment affecting that part of the permitting process, but he expects his company’s legal challenge to the amendment to come when Southern Tier Waste applies for a town permit.

Both state and local permits are required to build and operate a landfill. Should Southern Tier Waste receive its state permit, the town is bound by contract to issue a local permit.

“We have no other alternative now but to seek the legal remedies we have open to us,” said Mr. Heitzenrater after the hearing. “That isn’t the tact I wanted to take. That’s why I wanted to speak economics to these folks.”

CCCC UPDATE 10/12/2000: Heitzenrater gave notice to the town board of his intent to sue on Aug. 21, 2000; on October 11 the town board caved in on advice of its regular attorney Donald Swanz, repealing the most important protections included in the June, 2000 amendment.

Go to Rick Jozwiak's June 6, 2000 background story

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