Friday, August 12, 2011

Chrin Landfill Lawyer Publicly Condemns Williams Township Residents

Posted by: Noël Jones

Williams Township residents have been fighting the expansion of the Chrin Landfill for more than eight years now, complaining that the landfill is an eyesore and stinks badly and damages the property values of residents living nearby. In Colin McEvoy's article for the Express-Times, the residents, in their latest opposition move, apparently filed a lawsuit against the township for failing to collect millions in business privilege taxes since 1988. Chrin's lawyer has decided to publicly condemned the residents for pursuing what is owed to the township in back taxes.

This is the same company that is trying to get a variance to build a landfill near Easton's Hugh Moore park. Is it safe to assume that this is the same lawyer that threatened to sue our Planning Commission for asking tough questions and not automatically approving the waiver?


Kathy Lilley said...

Yes, this is the same lawyer, David Brooman. His rant will be available for viewing on the Williams Twp web site shortly. Three months ago, the township began videotaping the monthly supervisors' meetings. Brooman spoke during audience comments which is the last agenda item.

What you will see for yourself is someone who appears to be coming unglued and desperate. It is understandable since he has a tough job trying to defend a landfill that has been non-compliant for many years. If the matter didn’t involve public health and safety, it would be laughable to watch Brooman tout how well run the landfill is.

noel jones said...

Thanks for posting Kathy! I understand that you're one of the key activists in the fight against the landfill. For our readers, could you break down in bullet points in a comment, the main issues upsetting residents about the Chrin Landfill? Even though you guys are so close by, it is a new issue to a lot of people in Easton and other parts of the Lehigh Valley. Now that Chrin wants to open a landfill in Easton near one of our parks, it's starting to come on the radar more here, and I'd like for everyone to be informed about the ongoing battle in Williams and what we may be in for here.

I mentioned in my post that the landfill is an eyesore and that residents have complained of strong odors and lost property values because of it, but if you could list bullet points on other concerns, that would be really great.

Dennis R. Lieb said...

Part One

We must be as accurate as possible to remain credible in our discussion of the Chrin proposal so here are the facts:

They are proposing a composting facility on their property along Island Park Road (former Crivellaro dairy farm) - not another landfill.

This property is in Williams Township - not Easton, but it's proximity to a public park owned by Easton (Hugh Moore Park) would place it within a 900 ft buffer zone that the state DEP requires for siting purposes.

Easton has the right to waive our buffer zone provision if we wish to support the project and Chrin has appeared before the Planning Commission twice on the issue - the first time the decision was deferred to a later date at Chrin's discretion to allow commissioners to do a site visit and the second resulted in a 6-0 vote against providing the waiver (i.e. against allowing the facility to operate within the buffer zone).

As has been mentioned already, the Chrin legal representative had behaved in a manner that has not done their cause much good. I witnessed this behavior first hand as a planning commissioner and said as much to him after his comments during the second meeting (he did not attend the first meeting).

The most recent news concerning Easton's involvement in this issue was this week's working meeting of council on Tuesday night. Chrin had been on the schedule to present their case to city council for approving a waiver of the buffer zone. (Easton city council still has the right to disregard the Planning Commission recommendation to deny the waiver). Chrin pulled the item from the agenda at the eleventh hour without comment. What that means at this point is unclear, though I doubt they have given up.

Part Two to Follow


noel jones said...

Thanks for the clarification, Dennis.

Dennis R. Lieb said...

Part Two

A little my knowledge, the Planning Commission may never have had a chance to weigh in on this without councilperson Warner's close scrutiny of the project. Ms. Warner's participation with Easton's Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) made it a topic of interest to her group and she was successful in postponing a vote and having it reviewed by both the EAC and the Planning Commission.

This waiver request was placed on the agenda and presented to council prior to Planning Commission review by (I believe) the mayor. I am assuming this happened because Planning Commission review was discretionary in this instance though I greatly appreciate council's later decision to give us that courtesy - especially considering the result of our involvement.

My one concern from a public perception/political standpoint is the mayor's role as a former, long-time Chrin employee and a current voting member of council. I know some people who would feel uncomfortable if he didn't recuse himself from the waiver vote - especially since some people might think it was brought to council first as a way to sidestep possible scrutiny by other city agencies.

I want to be very clear that I am not accusing him of anything untoward, but simply that the combination of circumstances surrounding the issue so far might lead people to believe there may be favoritism, whether that is the case or not...there is always the possibility that a job opportunity with Chrin could present itself again after the mayor leaves office and it would be unfortunate if people connected that outcome to any decision made in Chrin's favor today.

As a Planning Commission member I have recused myself from voting on 600 block plans for a mixed-use project because I have provided development consulting services to the developer. Even though the project will provide jobs, market-rate housing and a source of fresh groceries to the under-served core of the city I still feel it inappropriate to vote on anything I may personally benefit from at some point in the future.

This is an issue that the citizens of Easton (and Williams Twsp. and Palmer Twsp. as adjoining communities) should pay close attention to. I am currently waiting for some ancillary information from a similar composting operation in Skippack, Pa. that seems to have turned into a nightmare scenario for residents there. If that info becomes available I will follow-up later.

Composting has the potential to become a benefit to the region. The question is who should perform that operation, how will it be locally managed and what confidence is there in higher authorities (state and federal regulators) in dealing with problems when they occur.


noel jones said...

I agree that Mayor Panto should recuse himself, as a former employee of Chrin, from any votes having to do with Chrin.

As for the proposal, I would like to know the definition of "composting" that Chrin would be legally held to. What could they dispose of next to Hugh Moore park, and what could they not? Would it create odor problems that would make it no longer pleasant to walk and ride bikes and picnic in Hugh Moore Park?

"Composting" has a very green sound to it, but I would like to know the legal definition in this instance.

Dennis R. Lieb said...

I have a legal definition from the planning packet on that hearing but I have to pull it out and read it. Stay tuned.


KathyLilley said...

The issues that residents have with the landfill are really quite simple – we want it to comply with the laws that were set up by the State and Federal legislators to protect healthy, safety, quality of life, etc. We’re not asking for any new laws…just compliance with what exists which is applicable to all landfills in the state.

The Chrin landfill has had a terrible problem with odors for many, many years; unfortunately, it wasn’t until early 2008 that the public became aware that the law required no off-site odors. Many of us, albeit naively, thought – it’s a landfill of course it should smell.

That’s not the case and properly run landfills don’t have the off site odor problems that Chrin does. There are other areas of violations as well, and these have all been documented by the enforcing authority – the PA DEP.
Clearly Chrin knew all along that the law didn’t allow off site odors. One has to decide for oneself whether a good corporate citizen breaks the law repeatedly because they can get away with it.

Our issue is that the DEP needs to do its job and enforce the regulations.

We are also against expansion of the landfill which requires a zoning change. This change was made by the Supervisors in 2009 and some residents (not myself), have taken the township to court to appeal this zoning change.

The change puts the landfill at the doorstep of many homes. These homes were approved to be built by the Supervisors, and a landfill expansion will destroy quality of life and property values of these residents.

In addition, one family now lives in a Solid Waste Zone based on the zoning change. Try selling a house in a Solid Waste Zone….they basically lost everything they had in terms of life savings and property value the day that vote was made and they lost all the permitted use rights that they had when their property was zoned Residential.

Lastly, we would like the landfill to pay the Landfill Business Privilege taxes it has not paid in the past 23 years. This matter is before the Court and I am a plaintiff in that case.

Dennis R. Lieb said...


Try to stay current with the Easton city council agenda since Chrin could come back anytime to ask them for a waiver again.

It would be beneficial in my opinion for township residents to attend and give their experiences of what it is like to deal with the corporate mentality when they don't want to cooperate with the community.


noel jones said...

Kathy--thanks very much for posting these details.

noel jones said...

This is interesting...apparently Chrin landfill opponent Vince Foglia, one of the plaintiff's of this suit, is running for township supervisor:

noel jones said...

speaking of dumps, the Express-Times reports that Daniels Sharpsmart, a medical waste company is opening in Forks Township, and that after the waste (including bloody gauze and "anatomical parts") is sterilized it will be dumped in a landfill, but it doesn't say which landfill. Will it be the Chrin landfill in Williams Township? Does sterilization of medical waste make it qualify as "compost" for the composting site that Chrin wants to develop near Hugh Moore park?

Dennis, I'm still interested in the technical definition of "compost" in the context of the "composting facility" that Chrin is trying to build. Maybe there's no connection at all, but it seems strangely coincidental that a waste company is moving to town at the same time that Chrin is tryng to build a new dump.

But then it may just be our country's insane rate of consumption and waste catching up with us...

noel jones said...

here's the ET link: