Concerned Citizens of Cattaraugus County, Inc.
updated 10/16/2003
Farmersville Town Board Caves In
new landfill law enacted in June, 2000 is gutted in November, 2000 for fear of a lawsuit; frustration prevails
On December 13, 1999, the Farmersville Town Board unveiled an amendment to the Town's landfill law designed to protect the community from a colossal landfill to be perched next to a major road on the side of hill with a 30% slope.This would have made it more difficult to site a new landfill in the town. After public comments, the following June the Board voted unanimously to enact the amendment, much to the chagrin of landfill developer Bill Heitzenrater.

On August 21 IWS presented a notice of claim to the Town Board, setting in motion a four-month waiting period after which the company might sue on the claim. IWS claimed $15 million in lost profits and $4,000 a day it asserted the company loses each day after June 14.

Less than two months later the Town Board fired the special counsel it retained to draft the new landfill law, following town attorney Don Swanz's advice to strike a deal with the devil: On October 11, 2000, the town board repealed some of the most important safety protections it had enacted in June, in return for IWS dropping its claim.

CCCC pointed out IWS had only the weakest of cases: in New York, a developer cannot claim losses on the property as developed unless it already has a permit for its development. That means no claim could be sustained for loses to IWS's "landfill," since IWS never had permission to construct one. Moreover, litigation brought by CCCC when town board struck a deal with IWS in 1991 (in response to the threat of another IWS lawsuit) ended with this holding from Supreme Court Judge Sprague: "The court finds that the contract [with IWS] does not diminish the discretion and power of this or future town boards to regulate landfills."

CCCC's position was bolstered by a legal opinion issued by the New York State Department of State, at the Town Board's request. The DOS told the town it was fully authorized under New York law to make the local waste law more stringent with a new amendment.

The Town Board's knees weakened after Bill Heitzenrater reportedly withheld payment of taxes to the Town on the dump site property, refusing to pay unless the Town Board voted the amendment down, and then presented a notice of intent to sue at the board's regular August meeting.  The day after that meeting Farmersville's attorney Donald Swanz was quoted in the Buffalo News saying the Town has every right to act to protect its citizens from a 950,000 ton-per-year landfill IWS wants to site on a dangerously steep slope, and calling the lawsuit threat "ridiculous."

All that changed three months later, when Swanz brokered a deal with Heitzenrater. Behind-the-scenes negotiations culminated in the October 11 vote 4-0 to cave in to IWS pressure.

In attendance were Swanz, IWS attorney Greg Photiadis, Bill Heitzenrater, and about twenty citizens (only a few of whom had actual notice that a new local law was being considered). Citizens complained loudly during the half-hour oral comment period that the town's action would make a landfill in Farmersville much more likely. 

In response to pointed questioning by one town board member who had not been party to the agreement, and was unhappy with some of the provisions of  the new amendment before him now, Mr. Photiadis explained that one provision of  the new amendment (repealing the June amendment's requirement that no more than 20% of construction fill originate from the site) "would make a landfill impossible," and another provision (repealing separate and independent monitoring well testing by a town monitor at IWS's expense) was too costly for IWS.

But after the discussion Mr. Swanz took the full board behind closed doors an Executive Session, where any doubts board members had evaporated. They emerged from the Executive Session and, in less than five minutes, voted for the repeal of the June 2000 restrictions and closed the meeting.

Overview of the Farmersville landfill proposal

Frequently asked questions about Farmersville

CCCC's Home Page
10/26/2000 Olean Times Herald: County Legislator says "stop this landfill"

10/15/2003 Olean Times Herald: Olean Alderman says "I want to see it stopped as quickly as possible"

Olean Times Herald story on the June, 2000 landfill law

Background on the IWS contract with the Town of Farmersville

A history of the 1991 contract between IWS and the Town

State Comptroller's 1995 Audit of the Town
The current IWS proposal


Cattaraugus County's tough new local law governing landfilling applies only to Towns without a local landfill law of their own

After the sudden resignation of Town Supervisor Larry Justus, on the eve of a scheduled April 17, 2000 Town Board meeting, at which the new landfill law was to be discussed, the remaining four-member Town Board was headed by then-Acting Supervisor Fritz Zuech. Today Zuech is the elected Supervisor.